Aircraft Charter 101 (Part 3)
En-route and in-touch.
Picking up on last month’s examination of the hospitable work environment of the chartered business aircraft- Dave Higdon looks at office connectivity options that enhance en-route productivity.
A chartered business aircraft with its own broadband access- phone connection and office-communications tools adds to the already more-productive environment of a private aircraft- whether you are working solo or as part of a team. That is something impossible to achieve on a common-carrier flight.
Little feels less productive and more wasteful than the time spent using an airline for business travel. Lengthy counter lines allow no latitude to perform productive work- and while TSA regulations require us all to remove our laptops- they remain useless until you get to the gate…provided you can find an outlet and an Internet connection that doesn’t cost as much as checking your bags!
Once aboard the airline- rules rob us of more potentially productive time: electronic devices to be switched off as the flight taxis- takes-off and climbs to above 10-000 feet- and again during the landing phase. In between you may get some useful work time – assuming you have space to open the laptop- and that you don’t have a nosey passenger seated next to you.
In short- the airline experience is not attractive- it’s not productive and it’s not enjoyable.
SERVICES & CONNECTIONS MAY VARY
Don’t be fooled by commercial carriers’ promotions of their growing WiFi or Broadband services. The availability of an access point is no guarantee that you will benefit – not when time- space and seat limitations are in play. All the above-noted problems still apply.
Likewise- not every charter provider can- or will offer everything on all of their aircraft. It pays- as always- to understand what you need when chartering a business aircraft.
In-flight office accoutrements may be little more than a cell-type phone connection that allows talking and maybe even text messaging. Or it may go as far as full-duplex satellite datalink with Internet and Intranet access for one or multiple users - perhaps there is even a printer or fax machine. How much you need should factor into your charter shopping decisions.
Will simple e-mail- voice and text access suffice- or does your work require more depth and speed? Knowing what kind of connection(s) your hardware supports should lead to questions about how many people can use the available connections too.
Can you use wireless connectivity? How much data flow and how many connections can the system handle? After all- there’s no sense turning three people loose on an airborne connection that supports only one or two- and slows interminably with multiple users.
Video exchanges- an increasingly available service- may exceed the airborne system’s bandwidth since many of today’s connected aircraft adapted early and still use slower hardware with more-limited capabilities. This is something else you need to establish if required.
SIZE (MAY) MATTER
Of course- there is some correlation between the size of the aircraft and the amount of hardware it can support- both in terms of weight and power. If seeing satellite broadcasts is an important need for your business trip- don’t be surprised to find some of the smaller jets lacking. The antennae required and the receiver/converter may be beyond the physical capabilities of the aircraft.
Neither should you expect a 60-inch high-definition video system in a light jet with a cabin barely wider than the screen. Do ask about the availability of smaller screens working with newer receiver systems- however. Screens can be small enough to fit on a small seat-side pedestal or in a seatback.
Some of today’s newest compact systems are adaptable to even the small turboprop (King Air- for example) and piston aircraft (example- Cirrus SR22) popular for shorter business trips- utilizing smaller runways.
Among larger aircraft sizes- however- the depth and diversity of in-flight communications improve - largely because of the greater space and greater hauling capabilities.
BOTTOM LINE CONSIDERATIONS
Finally- consider the trip time before agreeing to pay extra for a fully-connected aircraft charter. If the trip is under 90 minutes- you may actually have less than an hour of usable time on an internet system because phone and office machines may not be accessible until after take-off. As trip times increase- however- the benefits increase from communications and internet access.
As one frequent charter customer revealed- “My baseline for in-flight accessibility rests on a foundation of time. If the trip disconnects me for less than 90 minutes- I don’t really care whether or what kind of connectivity is offered – it’s not long enough to be an issue. There’s no point in paying extra for what I can’t use.
“For more than 90 minutes - up to two hours - then I start to become uncomfortable and my office assistant is eager to link me to accumulated calls. For more than two hours in the air- in-flight accessibility becomes a must for me.” We close this month’s article with a list of key questions you should know and understand if in-flight connectivity is important for your chartered flight:
• Connection type: Is the cabin wireless or wired?
• Connection speed: High-speed or less?
• Bandwidth: How many cabin occupants can use it at the same time?
• Access: Does the system need special equipment or a pass code?
• Service depth: Phone- internet- office equipment (or a combination of some or all the above)?
• Cost: How much and how is use billed?
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