Air­line in­no­va­tions no flights of fancy

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - MERRY KIRK­WOOD

WHOwould have thought, when the Wright brothers un­veiled their fly­ing ma­chines in a dusty field in Carolina, that lit­tle more than a cen­tury later planes would fea­ture ameni­ties such as spas, bars, in­ter­net con­nec­tions and gourmet cui­sine.

Air­lines are in­vest­ing mil­lions of dol­lars in their fleets to com­pete for our hol­i­day dol­lars and loy­alty, and for trav­ellers it’s a win-win sit­u­a­tion.

To­day we can en­joy haute­cui­sine meals from top-end chefs pre­pared on re­quest mid­flight, take a shower en route to Dubai, or stretch out for a com­fort­able night’s sleep: per­haps in a pri­vate dou­ble suite in Sin­ga­pore Air­lines’ first class, a Space­seat (rows of seats that can be flat­tened and linked) on Air New Zealand or even one of the triple bunk beds touted for Lufthansa.

And those who once suf­fered from mile-high ‘‘link-lag’’ can rest easy. Vir­tu­ally ev­ery means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion — mo­bile phone calls, SMS mes­sag­ing, email and in­ter­net con­nec­tions — is now avail­able midair. Then there’s the be­wil­der­ing ar­ray of en­ter­tain­ment op­tions — movies, games, tele­vi­sion and more — avail­able in all cabin classes these days.

In­no­va­tions on the ground are just as breath­tak­ing, with the ad­vent of glama­zon air­port lounges with spas and bars, shops, pools, movie the­atres, teeth-whiten­ing booths and even fly-in wed­ding venues.

Check-in now in­volves lit­tle more than a quick-as-a-flash print­out via a com­puter or mo­bile phone app or a swipe of your fre­quent flyer card, with many pas­sen­gers now tag­ging and drop­ping their own bags be­fore pro­ceed­ing to se­cu­rity.

E-pass­ports, mean­while, can ease pas­sage through im­mi­gra­tion on ar­rival at your fi­nal des­ti­na­tion.

Com­fort­able, en­ter­tain­ing, seam­less flights and air­ports that are more user-friendly than the lo­cal shop­ping mall . . . those canny Wright brothers might well won­der what they started all those years ago.

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