Empty airline seats are good news for business

By Ian Grayson, Hydrapinion

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While airlines around the world take delivery of new giant Airbus A380 planes, it seems many will be flying with more than a few empty seats.

They might be decked out with everything from private suites to cocktail bars but that’s little consolation to financial departments eager to cut as much fat from company expenses sheets as possible. If they can find a way to keep more people in the office rather than high over the Pacific Ocean they’ll be very happy.

But while such cost cutting is bad news for airlines, it’s a dream come true for video conferencing vendors. Those offering high-definition conferencing systems are poised to enjoy a rush of orders from grounded executives.

Research company Gartner has run the slide rule over the trend and quantified just how bad the news will be for the airlines. The firm estimates video conferencing sessions will replace 2.1 million airline seats each year by 2012. This cut translates to an annual drop in revenues of $3.5 billion for airlines.

Now, many executives might shudder at the prospect of meeting with colleagues or clients via television screens rather than face to face, but that could be because they’re yet to try out the latest generation of services on offer.

Touted by companies such as HP and Cisco, high-end video conferencing systems overcome many of the shortfalls of their predecessors, and I have to say they’re pretty impressive. Thanks to top-notch screens and faithful sound reproduction, after a while you almost forget you’re not in the same room as the people you’re meeting with.

HD images mean you can easily see subtle facial expressions and pick up on body language nuances that would have been missed on the video conferencing systems of old. Documents and PowerPoint presentations can be shared and collaboratively worked on as needed. The only thing you can’t do is shake hands.

Sure, they’ll never replace face-to-face meetings totally but, as Garter predicts, such conferencing systems will do much to reduce the number of meetings you’ll need to attend.

It might not be good news for your frequent flyer point balance, but it’ll certainly be good news for the company bottom line. End of article.

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