Walk onto a new Boeing 737-900 plane and it might be a throw back to the old days when you had to reach for the seat pocket in front of you for a magazine to pass the time; that is if you don’t have a tablet or smartphone. Many new aircraft are coming off the assembly line without video entertainment systems. Why the new trend toward the old ways? Here are five reasons:

  1. Airlines expect you’ll bring your own device (BYOD)
  2. Less capital investment for the airlines
  3. Easier to upgrade Wi-Fi infrastructure than video screens
  4. Opportunities to charge more for access
  5. Reduces weight and therefore operating costs

It’s getting hard to find anyone who flies regularly that isn’t carrying a laptop, tablet or a smartphone. Those video screens, however, cost around $10K each, which means about $3 million per plane. Some airlines have chosen instead to buy iPads and hand them out to their business class passengers. Technology built into each aircraft usually is expected to last 5-10 years, yet consumer electronics are progressing far quicker than that. Other airlines have upgraded their Wi-Fi and are charging for access to the internet along with movies for a fee delivered from onboard servers. Reducing the weight of those screens would also save $90K per plane in annual fuel costs according to the Wall Street Journal.

So what can IT and many businesses learn from BYOD in the Skies? Here are five lessons:

  1. Reevaluate the cost-benefit equation for BYOD in your business
  2. Provide advanced services and devices to key players
  3. Give people options and shift some responsibilities to them
  4. Strengthen your infrastructure to provide choice and improved productivity
  5. Eliminate excess weight or redundancy

Many companies are already benefiting from employee BYOD investments, which is especially important to factor in when the turnover of many smart devices is less than half of the 3-4 year PC lifecycle.

Don’t ignore those who could most benefit from devices you can provide. It’s always fun to experiment with the latest and greatest and then share it with your execs and management. Make it your responsibility to stay ahead on consumer electronics and know how these new devices can integrate into your business ecosphere.

Give everyone else plenty of options to be productive with whatever they have, but give them quick access to all the corporate resources and the bandwidth they need to be productive. IT can help by reducing the amount of systems management traffic IT takes to manage all those devices and deliver apps and services down to each device.

There are two cautions, however, that come from our BYOD in the skies example: 1) Don’t rely completely on BYOD for user-related technology investments. In an Osurv survey of 1,300 travelers, 94 percent thought they should benefit personally from the BYOD savings with lower fares or baggage fees, yet airlines are looking to incrementally increase fees to increase profitability. Swing the pendulum too far with BYOD and it could backfire – see recent blog post, “Is BYOD Going to Die by Lawsuit?” 2) Here’s one difference between BYOD on the ground versus in the skies: businesses have to continually pay attention to security in multiple ways. Whereas in the new jets with no video screens, you’ll have to go old school and watch the flight attendants go through their redundant safety gestures and routines to remind us what to do in case of an emergency.