On my recent trip to Toronto to visit my in-laws, I noticed something on the flight as we flew over the Atlantic Ocean and into Eastern Canada. Almost no-one was looking out the window. As I got up from my seat to stretch my legs for a walk down the aisle, I looked about the rows of passengers on the flight. Each row contained at least two people with tablets or laptops in their hands with the majority of people left tuned into the on-board movie.
I know that not everyone is blessed with window seats, but the majority of people within the vicinity of a window were not even looking out of the window. During a couple of trips to the back of the aircraft over the course of the flight I noticed that very few people took the opportunity to look out the window. A missed opportunity in my book.
There are some parts of flying that I don't enjoy like queues, security checks and of course the waiting to board, but the one part that I do enjoy is the views from the aircraft. It's a rare opportunity to see the world from the highest point most of us can get to. Only a select number of people around the world manage to make it to higher altitudes like some military pilots, astronauts and of course Felix Baumgartner.
I remember flying to Las Vegas from Toronto a number of years ago and seeing the changing landscape of the American Midwest below us. Having only really flown trans-atlantic flights before, the new landscape was amazing to see. It was startling to see the change from urban sprawl to grassy pastures and then onto mountains and desert.
Flying is also one of the few remaining places where many of us can disconnect from the digital world. I know that some airlines are offering wifi on their flights, but given the choice I would rather fly without wifi. Free from email, social networks and other distractions online, flying is a great opportunity to reflect, catch up on some reading or simply appreciate the view.
For a lot of people air travel doesn't have the same wow factor that it had in the past. Perhaps they've flown so many times, they've simply become acustom to not looking out the window as they have seen it all before. Maybe they're simply not interested in the world below.
With the increased availability of technology on flights perhaps it's time to consider a windowless airplane. Very few people look out of the window these days anyway. I hope it never comes to that, as I do enjoy the view looking down from the skies.