Monday, July 26, 2010

Google Adds to Virgin Experience with Maps

Most international air carriers offer digital maps as one of the view options with seat back television screens. Google announced last week that a partnership with Virgin America will up the digital map ante by using upgraded terrain based Google Earth maps in their fleet .

I find digital maps on planes to be enjoyable and they actually help me pass the time on long flights. My first experience was on a USA 3000 flight to Jamaica in 2004. The ability to track, in real time, the plane's location was pretty cool. It also beat the heck out of the in-flight movie, Fat Albert.

A Delta flight from Detroit to London in 2009 was my first experience with an interactive flight map. I could zoom in and out as well as toggle between the flight track and flight data such as speed, distance traveled and time remaining until landing. Being able to track the plane's progress made the flight not only seem faster, but more enjoyable as I would think to myself things like "You are directly over the mid-atlantic ridge."

Most recently I flew about 15000 miles with South African Airlines. While they had seat back maps, which most international fleets now do, they weren't interactive. In fact, the map would rotate to another screen of some doofus telling me to do calf raises and toe raises about every 15 seconds. It was a tease. I certainly don't want to get deep vein thrombosis but I don't need to be reminded constantly when stuck on a plane for, during one stint, more than 18 hours. I longed for the ability to zoom in and out at the press of a button and to tell myself things like "You are entering Liberian airspace". Virgin America passengers will no longer have to endure the pain of substandard seat back maps. It's just too bad I don't live near a Virgin America hub.

Since I brought up South African Airlines, I would be remiss if I didn't show you the safety video. Anyone who flies SAA will remember this little guy.


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