We've seen umpteen travel startups focusing on pre-trip travel inspiration and trip-planning, and post-flight activities and tours, but suddenly there is a renewed focus on what has become almost an afterthought -- the flight itself.
Airlines, of course, are focusing on upselling passengers flat-bed seats or seats with extra legroom, and also meals as ancillary services, and there are several companies pushing in-flight Wi-Fi and onboard entertainment such as TV shows, movies and games.
But, now several startups and more mature companies are striving to make the actual flight experience more enticing.
These enterprises honing in on the flight experience include MondoWindow, RouteHappy, SeatGuru, KLM and Malaysia Airlines, among others. (And, there are plenty of other companies you can add to this semi-random list.)
MondoWindow (see TLabs Showcase here) doesn't have any announced airline customers yet, but its premise is to enable travelers to view and learn about points of interest outside their aircraft's windows as they jet along in the skies. MondoWindow also plans to serve up games, audio and video entertainment, and destination deals such as golf instruction along the way.
Here's MondoWindow's self-description:
MondoWindow provides web based, in-flight, location-aware content and entertainment to WiFi-connected airline passengers. It is an interactive map that tells you where you are and what you’re looking at as you fly; it turns the plane into a geobrowser and provides web based, location-aware content, including games and social media for real time, in-flight entertainment.
RouteHappy, which launched a public beta this week, is also concerned about the flight experience.
It enables air travelers to share their opinions about their experiences on specific flights as well as the booking process and time spent at the airport.
As does MondoWindow, RouteHappy incorporates social media for sharing purposes.
On RouteHappy, Chris W. gave the departure gate and boarding experience a "thumbs down" at LAX as he was waiting for an Alaska Airlines flight to San Jose. Chris writes:
Not enough signage for where the gate/TSA line was. Gate area old and cramped. Ripped seats. Dead outlets abounded. Totally uncoordinated boarding.
Meanwhile, Robin L. writes about the comfort of her March 17 Jetstar flight from Singapore to Bali:
Assigned an aisle but seating comfort, especially legroom, is non-existent due to tight cabin configuration. Saving grace flight only 70% full and was fortunate enough to have all 3 seats free to partially lie down en route.
The seat itself is much of the focus of TripAdvisor-owned SeatGuru, which just launched its first iPhone app.
The free SeatGuru by TripAdvisor app includes SeatGuru's signature color-coded aircraft seat maps and recommendations about seat choices on almost 700 airlines.
In addition to getting airline seat recommendations, including advice on how a particular seat might compare to one on other airlines, users of the app can shop for flights using the TripAdvisor Flights metasearch engine.
So you can select a seat based on recommendations from SeatGuru; view other travelers' reviews of airports and flights on RouteHappy; learn about points of interest you are flying near via MondoWindow (in theory, at least, pending an announcement about airline partners) -- and pick seatmates based on their social media profiles using KLM Meet & Seat and Malaysia Airlines' MH Buddy.
Thus, KLM and Malaysia Airlines are dabbling beyond the flight booking itself and attempting to enrich the flight experience for their customers, with a particular focus on business travelers.
And KLM recently revealed it is expanding the program after only a couple of months 10 additional intercontinental routes, bringing the number to 13.
Advances in Wi-Fi and the advent of social media have assuredly contributed to this new focus on the flight experience itself.
Are the glory days of air travel poised to return?