by Lafe Low

Executive Travel – Luxury at 35,000 Feet

Mar 01, 20032 mins

The commercial airline industry may be ailing (see “The Incredible Lateness of Delta,” Feb. 15, 2003), but competition for the traveling executive is taking off. For example, charter flights and the shared-ownership of business jets (known as fractional ownerships) are on the rise. And the passenger cabin?where technology-enabled amenities from companies such as B/E Aerospace of Winston-Salem, N.C., and DPI Labs of LaVerne, Calif., envelop the C-level traveler?is a key battleground. We found a couple of amenities worth looking for.

The chair. The ergonomically enhanced Lie-Flat POD (above) from B/E Aerospace can be enclosed in a privacy screen, allowing weary travelers to recline flat for sleeping; from a special armrest, a traveler can control his seat position and lighting, as well as audio, video and Internet connections. Find it on British Airways, Japan Airlines, Quantas and Taiwan’s EVA Air.

The in-flight network. DPI Labs developed in-flight entertainment (IFE) systems for private aircraft that function as a peer-to-peer network in the sky, says Creighton Hart, an embedded systems engineer for DPI. The network acts as a cabin management system that relies on a distributed architecture (rather than embedded processors) to control climate, lighting, air pressure and much more.

For plane outfitters, this design means less wiring and better reliability. For passengers, a DPI-designed system means systems can be configured for individual preferences toward lighting, temperature, video and audio entertainment. DPI has developed IFE systems for planes as small as a Gulfstream V and as large as a Boeing 747. No word on whether office versions are available yet.