Flying goes hi-tech: Why we've never had it so good

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Flying has never been as smooth an experience as it is today. Nor has it been so hi-tech. Across the world, airlines are on a quest to discover the very latest innovations that will meet our increasingly sophisticated expectations of standards of service and comfort, from the moment we book the ticket to arrival at our final destination.

From online check-in to on-demand in-seat entertainment and menus written by top chefs, fliers have never had it so good. We're getting through the terminal to the aircraft more comfortably and ever quicker, onto quieter and greener flights with better air quality. The latest aircraft feel spacious with better seating, top-quality entertainment can be enjoyed at whim, and we can tuck into food and drink that rivals high-street cafes and gourmet restaurants. Even the views are getting better, with planes with bigger windows encouraging us to dream of the far horizons to which we're headed.

British Airways is one airline that has been investing heavily in products and services to improve our journey to and through the skies. When the airline moved its hub to Heathrow's cutting-edge Terminal 5 in 2008 - a £4.3bn terminal with a linear design that can fast-flow up to 60,000 customers every day - it has been attending to every part of its operation to ensure engineering, technology, facilities and service are all state-of-the-art in a whopping £5bn project.

The revolution that is transforming our travels touches every aspect of our journey. And it starts on the ground. Online check-in is relatively new yet something we now pretty much take for granted and more of us are going paperless, downloading our boarding pass onto our mobile phone via an app. But our baggage labels are about to go digital, too.

Why flying is going hi-tech

British Airways will soon be trialing a new digital bag tag to replace the traditional paper label that is attached to suitcases for each flight. After check in, we will soon be able to save yet more precious time by using Near Field Technology on our smartphones to automatically update the airline with our details by just holding the phone over a reusable digital tag.

But the biggest innovation is the two new generation aircraft British Airways is about to introduce to its fleet. The first of 12 Airbus A380s and 24 Boeing 787 Dreamliners that will be put in service over the next four years are already in operation. The four-class A380 will fly from the airline's Heathrow hub to its furthest reaches at Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Johannesburg. The three-class 787s will fly to Newark and Toronto.

Why flying is going hi-tech

These aircraft are pioneering new standards in the skies. Thanks to the very latest in engineering, the planes are quieter inside and outside the cabin and far more fuel efficient than older aircraft. Smooth-ride technology will do what it says on the tin, and windows will be much larger than on similar-sized aircraft, so you'll get views of the horizon wherever you sit. When it gets too bright, you won't even have to shut the blind, the press of a button will adjust an electrochromic system that gradually dims the pane.

The double-decker A380, the world's largest commercial airliner, has more floor and head space than British Airway's previous jumbo jet, the Boeing 747-400, yet carries more than 100 extra passengers, with 469 seats. The 214-seat 787s are made of materials that mean the air pressure will be greater putting more moisture in the cabin and the plane can even channel some fresh air into the cabins via scoops in the fuselage.

We'll be able to plan what to watch before we board the plane with the new My High Life Entertainment Facebook app, which reveals the fine detail of what will be on during our upcoming flights. (British Airways even has a Facebook app - Perfect Days - to help us design an itinerary for where to go and what to do when we arrive at our destination.) There are more films available, too, up from 57 to 129. And once on-board, we'll find the flat-screens are larger and all seats have an in-seat power supply, USB port and iPod dock.

Indeed, the cabins will look and feel different. A refresh of the World Traveller and World Traveller Plus cabins crucially includes greater recline on the seats. The menu in World Traveller Plus now features choices from the Club World menu, too.

Passengers on Club World and First have become used to the smooth transfer from the home comforts of the stylish departure and arrival lounges at Terminal 5 to equally luxurious environment cabins on board, where the latest in in-flight service is offered, with flat beds upholstered with memory foam and dining created by some of the world's top chefs. Yet these cabins have been finessed, too.

The Club Kitchen has been restocked with a new selection of snacks, including cookies, crisps and premium ice-creams. While First on the A380 has been put in a spacious part of the superjumbo to allow more space around the luxurious seat-cum-bed than before. Food and wine menus will change more often in First and a new five-course tasting menu has been introduced with suggested wine pairings.

Travelling the world just got a whole lot easier.

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