Virtual meetings to ground 2 million airline seats

By Natasha Lomas

Airlines could be hit hard as workers ditch face-to-face meetings in favor of cheaper virtual link-ups.

The worldwide economic downturn will boost videoconferencing tech, according to analyst house Gartner that predicts virtual meetings will replace more than two million airline seats per year by 2012.
Telepresence systems--such as Cisco's TelePresence and HP's Halo--use high definition video, stereo audio and purpose built videoconference suites to help make participants feel as if they are meeting in the same room as each other.

The analyst reckons telepresence tech will replace 2.1 million airline seats annually, costing the travel and hospitality industry US$3.5 billion per year--but giving tech kit makers a boost. Online worlds such as Second Life could also see increased usage as companies seek alternatives to air travel.

Gartner fellow Steve Prentice said every organization needs to reconsider whether face-to-face meetings are essential.

"Companies should put aside previous prejudices and bad memories of older videoconferencing services and seriously investigate these new technologies," he said in a statement.

Natasha Lomas of reported from London.