On-board flight announcements these days invariably mention that you're allowed to store your iPad in the seat pocket, but it's not just the passengers who are going tablet-crazy. Here are five examples of how iPads are being used on board planes.
Note: the headline says 'iPads' because that's the current reality. Most of these tasks could be performed on any tablet, but in every case I cite here (except one), it's the iPad that has been chosen.
BA: To provide cabin crew with passenger information
British Airways is running a trial with 100 of its senior cabin crew where each is given an iPad which is updated via 3G just before take-off with details on who is seated where, their airline status, and their food preferences. The devices are also used to store timetables, safety manuals and other information. Compared to the print-outs that are used now, this seems like a definite improvement.
United/Continental/Alaska: Pilot information
In a similar vein but moving towards the front of the plane, all these US airlines are replacing printed documentation for pilots with iPads that can be updated with the relevant information. Our only concern? Given how bad 3G often is at airports, we're not entirely sure whether the traditional "we're just waiting for our final bit of paperwork" excuse will actually disappear.
Jetstar: In-flight entertainment
Jetstar has been talking up the prospect of renting iPads to customers to view movies and TV since June last year. The plans got delayed after it decided to wait for the launch of the iPad 2, and at this stage there still doesn't seem to be any concrete evidence of its happening. But it certainly sounds like an improvement on the current DVD player rental model it uses. (Getting a handheld DVD player has its advantages, but it's a fiddly experience for the crew.)
Finnair: In-lounge and in-flight entertainment
Finnair is also experimenting with iPads for entertainment, but using a different model: business-class passengers on its Helsinki-Hong Kong flights can pick up the device in the lounge before they depart and use it on board as well. Other passengers can use the devices in the Helsinki lounge.
Qantas: Weather data for the pilot
A bonus mention goes to the pilot on a Qantas flight I was on last year who kept us updated during a departure delay with weather information sourced direct from his iPhone: apparently the data was easier to get that way than by asking ground control. These days, he could use a 3G-equipped iPad for the same task, and there'd be less squinting over the satellite maps.
Spotted other airline uses of iPads in the wild? Tell us about them in the comments.
Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman is a Honeycomb man himself. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.