July 9, 2015
It’s hard to imagine traveling anyplace and not being able to connect to the Internet. Wi-Fi has become so readily available, that we can go just about anywhere and connect, even miles into the sky. Although in-flight Wi-Fi isn’t a new experience, more and more people are becoming accustomed to the idea of using their laptop or personal device to get online during their flight, and thus almost every airline company offers the amenity. Nevertheless, depending on what airline you choose, your Internet experience could greatly differ.
The market of in-flight Internet access is growing, despite the middling experience the consumer usually faces. To get online, the passenger will end up paying a range of fees, and likely receive painfully slow speed, not to mention risk the loss of connection several times throughout the flight. It’s no wonder most people aren’t flocking to in-flight Wi-Fi services like Gogo. According to a recent survey published by Quartz, barely 7 percent of passengers on flights where the service is offered actually buy it. But despite difficulty in getting people to sign up for the service, Gogo’s revenue is rising and the company continues to raise its prices.
Most airlines see in-flight Wi-Fi as a revenue generating service; however, the way they propose this amenity to their passengers has no death of competitive strategies. You could end up paying up to $20 to connect on an American or Delta flight and hope for mediocre speed at best. JetBlue offers free Wi-Fi to its passengers and with itslimited Fly-Fi service, its pay service delivers speeds over 10 Mbps.
So what’s the reason behind the significant contrast in pricing and speed among airlines? According to Tim Farrar, satellite telecom analyst for TMF Associates, it’s due largely to differing business models. “The main reason you might find yourself paying more for less on board some flights has to do with how in-flight Internet fits into your airline’s overall business plan,” he says.
Gogo, has built its business on the idea that business travelers will pay almost any price to work above the clouds, because ultimately they’re not footing the bill—their employers are. Other, smaller airlines see the service as a compliment that will only entice potential passengers to come onboard.
Even though the demand for reliable in-flight Wi-Fi is rising, so is the price tag that often comes along with it. What will likely keep the airline’s Wi-Fi service evolving is the knowledge that consumers’ expectations are constantly expanding. People now expect the same Internet experience they get in their home as they do on their flight, so much that it very well could be the determining factor in what airline they choose when booking that expensive trip across the country. For now, airlines continue to be individual in their Wi-Fi offerings, but as we often see in the tech industry, you must compete to stay alive.