Did you know you can make a video call online during an actual commercial flight? Not before, not after, but during? Maybe you did, but not a lot of people are aware of that. This is because not every airline offers internet on every flight. The reasons different airlines have different rules for offering internet online vary, from business viabilities to “flight regulations messing with the nations”.
Now before I go on let me apologise. The title of this article has the words “you shouldn’t” and I’ve always hated articles which boss the readers around. Believe me, I know how that feels. Some upstart stranger shouldn’t be telling you what to do and what not to do, be that stranger an author or someone you passed by in the street. But I wrote the title that way to make a point. I believe video chatting during most commercial flights is such a bad idea, that I broke my own rules.
The reason I felt the need to clarify that I mean most commercial flights rather than all of them is that some ultra-luxurious commercial flights offer passengers what essentially amounts to private cabins. Flying under those circumstances is, honestly, not a bad idea for video conferencing. I have to assume that flying at that level of luxury automatically means the flight offers high quality internet access to the passengers of their private cabins, so there’s no need to even wonder whether such flights offer internet or not. For the rest of you mortals flying coach/economy, business class, or even first class on a regular, mainstream airliner, let’s get into why video calls during a flight are usually not a good idea.
During most commercial flights any number of people can hear you. This means that discussing anything personal with somebody, or getting into the details of sensitive business information is not a good idea. Revealing personal information is not a good idea for a number of reasons, including financial security. For example; in today’s world, safety issues like identity theft are ongoing concerns. And while sitting in a restaurant or a park or another public place might be conductive to the success of a video call using video conferencing software by using a little distancing and perhaps even employing an external noise cancellation device, the distances between you and other people during a commercial flight, be they fellow passengers or flight staff, is usually too close to facilitate such privacy in public.
You could of course opt to use earphones and try to speak in a very low voice, but then you run the risk of the other participant in your video call being unable to hear you, because the sounds around you will be close enough to interfere with your video call. Which brings us to the second reason video conferencing from a commercial flight is a bad idea.
Any number of noises could interrupt your video conference. Two passengers talking in the seats next to you. Somebody snoring like a chainsaw nearby. Then of course there’s the babies.
On any given commercial flight, it is reasonable to expect at least one baby to cry. Whether or not the baby cries the entire flight, and whether the baby chooses the middle of your video call to cry or embarks on the whole affair after you’re done is largely a matter of chance. But it’s not a chance I’d advise you to take, statistically speaking. Ok you’ve got me. I haven’t actually done the statistics on how many children aged 0-6 are likely to board any given flight, but I’ve been fortunate enough to fly to several places and trust me when I say that while most of my flights have not (thankfully) been dominated by crying babies, most of my flights were boarded by multiple children aged 0-6. If you’ve had any prolonged association with a wide variety of kids you don’t know very well, you know that their noisiness or lack thereof in public can be very unpredictable at that age. If they’re not crying, they’re screaming, shouting and even running around if they’re old enough!
Of course, noise from children or snoring passengers is not the only threat to your video call. The right amount of turbulence will take care of that just fine. As if that’s not enough there’s the crowd who, not content with clapping when they land, are also wont to salute the pilot with more applause for getting them through the previously mentioned turbulence. Naturally, there is also a Murphy’s law scenario here. Turbulence spilling a drink on you during your video call while one toddler starts crying as another screams his lungs out, as the passengers start to applaud the pilot for getting them through the turbulence, all while the man in the seat in front of you begins to snore in earnest! I exaggerate for effect, but you get the picture.
Connecting internet to aeroplanes used for commercial flights is, naturally, a commercial endeavour. If the internet is free it’s meant to boost the airline’s rankings in amenities and customer preferences when compared to other airlines. On the other hand, if the internet costs a bit extra but doesn’t seem outrageously expensive, then it’s just an extra source of revenue to tack onto some of the airline’s planes because “Why Not?”
Based on that, you can expect the quality of the internet to be consistent with a plane flying through areas with difficult reception and sometimes in inclement weather conditions, because not a lot of money will have been spent to steady the internet connection when factors affecting the connection quality make themselves known. More money will have been spent ensuring the quality of pilot communication channels, which is as it should be. But it makes lags and interruptions in your video calling almost inevitable.
Spending the kind of money needed for a stable, high quality internet connection on an aeroplane requires the airline to stand to make a profit from budgeting that category of spending. This is more probable with a luxury airline plane which seats passengers in private cabins, the ones which often come with hotel-style beds. Apart from that, most commercial flights still have no business justification to connect higher quality internet to their flights.
That said, if you’re resolved on making a video call during your next commercial flight, try a virtual meeting solution which allows you the option to reduce your video quality so that you can manage your data flow in accordance with your connection. All of Banty’s video calling solutions offer this option.