SIA aircraft soon to get "cyber cabins''
Passengers on some planes will be able to go online; first and business classes will also have an e-mail facility
By KOH BOON PIN
BEING thousands of feet in the air will no longer mean a loss of Internet connection for Singapore Airlines passengers when two new services go on trial later this year.
A new in-flight entertainment system will allow passengers to surf and shop online, while a separate server for sending and receiving e-mail will be fitted onto selected SIA Boeing 747-400 planes in November.
This will allow first- and business-class passengers to surf and send e-mail with their laptop computers.
Economy passengers will initially have access only to the surfing facility.
If the e-mail trial is successful, both services may become standard features in all classes of seats when SIA takes delivery of 23 new Boeing and Airbus aircraft from July next year.
As for protecting the aircraft's systems from online viruses, SIA said that, even if firewalls do not keep them out, the bugs will not affect the plane's functions because the entertainment and communication systems will be housed in separate servers kept independent of the plane's operating systems.
Mr Yap Kim Wah, SIA's senior vice-president of marketing services, said yesterday that the ""cyber cabin'' programme was to complement its existing services.
He said: ""Passengers these days like to have more choices, more information, more connectivity and we want to be at the forefront of this lifestyle expectation.''
The airline has committed $200 million over the next two years to the entertainment and communications systems on 38 new and existing planes.
Similar systems may then be introduced on the other 54 planes in the fleet.
Internet access on board flights is, for the time being, limited to pre-loaded content ranging from online newspapers to entertainment websites.
However, real-time access may be introduced when satellite bandwidth is expanded next year.
Interactive games are also expected to feature prominently in the new system.
""What we want to do is break new ground by offering games with multi-player capability like mahjong,'' he said.
First off though will be a service starting today which enables SIA to alert passengers to any changes in flights via their mobile phones, pagers or computers.
Despite the high-tech moves, one thing will not change.
Said Mr Yap: ""We don't want a virtual Singapore Girl. Flying is all about understanding and meeting the emotions and needs of our passengers.''
From The Straits Times Singapore
Besides SIA, which other airlines have FORMALLY announce their intentions to introduce surfing onboard their planes?