With airlines increasingly looking for new and innovative ways to boost profits in an otherwise bleak industry, many airline carriers are finally turning to new technologies. And by new, we mean decades old. Yes, it seems hard to believe but it’s been almost two decades since the internet has hit the mainstream, and yet only now are airlines starting to offer inflight WiFi.
While the airlines are quick to point out that usage has been increasing on a near weekly basis (no airline is willing to admit how many users opt for inflight WiFi), many experts peg the rate at about 5-7%. The reason is obvious: 15 bucks for a few hours of internet. In comparison, Continental’s new inflight entertainment offerings feature DirecTV. For 9 bucks, passengers can view both live and programmed channels, and will also get barebones internet access. That means passengers can access email and instant messenger, but no general web browsing.
Airlines report the best success during popular business routes. This should come as no surprise, as many business travelers are looking to work while they fly. Add to that most passengers bill it to their company and it’s a no brainer. However, airlines recognize the importance of the business traveler and are looking to sell WiFi packages to companies in blocks, or plans, instead of the single use model that is currently in effect.
It costs nearly $100,000 to outfit a plane with WiFi capabilities. Will the airlines recoup their costs? Only time well tell. We can only hope that the cost will lower as the technology gets better.
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