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In a season that has seen thousands of air travellers fidgeting in their seats while planes are parked on runways or rerouted to undesired destinations, a diversion may be on the horizon aimed at making the wait less onerous…

In a season that has seen thousands of air travellers fidgeting in their seats while planes are parked on runways or rerouted to undesired destinations, a diversion may be on the horizon aimed at making the wait less onerous. Or at least more productive.

Last week giants of the technology business unveiled an airborne broadband computer system that would conquer one of the frontiers of the wired world: Allowing passengers to be totally hooked into the World Wide Web and other entertainment and information outlets while they`re in the air.

That means surfing the web, exchanging e-mails, joining chat rooms, downloading Hollywood movies, manipulating stock portfolios, programming home VCRs and teleconferencing with business associates at the home office – all while cruising at 35,000 feet.

Whether business travellers will be glad to turn Seat 17D into a complete flying office – no more reading those fascinating in-flight magazines instead of sending memos to the boss – remains to be seen. But certainly it has the potential to change the culture of flying as surely as the Internet has changed the workplace on the ground.

Unveiled with much fanfare on and above southern California, In-Flight Network LLC, of Hiawatha, Iowa, lured hundreds of local movers and shakers to the Burbank and Santa Monica airports for a sneak preview of the system, which is scheduled for takeoff late next year.

In-Flight Network is a joint venture of telecommunications giant News Corp. and aerospace firm Rockwell Collins. Other partners include Qualcomm, Loral Space & Communications and Globalstar.

The system won`t require flight attendants to become computer geeks in addition to suitcase stuffers, amateur psychiatrists, baby wranglers and bartenders.

We`ll provide 24/7 support services via the Internet and phones, said Robert Carpenter, director of airline marketing for In-Flight Network, acknowledging that another such system had failed because flight attendants had to become computer experts.

Meanwhile, Boeing Co. is developing a global communications network of its own, and discussing possible alliances with carriers. Like In-Flight Network, Connexion by Boeing will provide an array of high-speed data communication services via a space-based network.

Co-Founder & Managing Director - Travel Media Applications | Website | + Posts

Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.

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