Will you pay for in-flight Internet in two years?

Across the USA, people are excited about in-flight Wi-Fi (rightly so, it is fantastic), and they genuinely appear willing to pay the price for using it. But will passengers always be willing to pay for the pleasure?

The New York Times, in its brilliant 10 May article “The Price of Staying Connected”, points out that wireless Internet access is “no longer a rarefied luxury” since it is being offered for free in cafes, parks, fast-food chains, campgrounds and gas stations. Hotels are also increasingly moving in the direction of free Wi-Fi. But not all of them.

Key quote from Randall Stempler, a lawyer in Manhattan:

“As far as I am concerned it is one of the most annoying of hotel charges….It should just be built into the rate, like electricity.”

With this in mind, what will the in-flight landscape look like in two years?  Will airplanes be the only place left where you have to pay for Wi-Fi? And, if this happens, will pressure from passengers force airlines to go ahead and make it “free” by building the cost into their ticket prices?

Who is going to make the payment – passengers or airlines?

It’s something that JetBlue subsidiary LiveTV has been chewing on for some time. When I visited LiveTV in Melbourne, Florida last year, the company gave me some interesting slides. The first shows how, with the advent of AT&T’s “no roaming, no long distance” Digital One rate plans in mid-1998, payphone use of all types plummeted, including in-flight payphones offered by Airfone.

 

LiveTV slide 2.JPG

The second slide suggests that while customers’ expectations for in-flight Internet speed continues to increase, the proliferation of free options will decrease their willingness to pay.

 

LiveTV slide.JPG

Is LiveTV onto something? Will you still be willing to pay $12.95 outright for in-flight Wi-Fi in a few years?

 

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15 Responses to Will you pay for in-flight Internet in two years?

  1. Ludwig von Hapsburg XII "Stinky" May 26, 2009 at 12:28 pm #

    Objection, your Honor!

    Sounds like Mr. Stempel needs to pay for a session to go online and find out that many hotels include wifi in the daily rate.

    Ohhh, I forget, he must be one of those blue-blooded gents who can’t be seen at a Hampton Inn, a place that clearly caters to the plebs and riff raff. Not Madison Ave., at all.

    Remind me never to get Mister Lawyer Man Stempler on retainer. I would say his “investigative skills” leave something to be desired.

    I rest my case. Now I must go check my briefs.

    “Stinky”

    PS-I wouldn’t worry too much about airlines bowing to pressure from passengers. Despite calls for food & snacks, seats with reasonable legroom, flight attendants that can at least pretend they enjoy being in the same space as you, have all go unheeded, so why should they start now?

  2. Mary Kirby May 26, 2009 at 3:19 pm #

    No doubt we’ll see airlines offering Wi-Fi as an “add-on” option at booking or at the kiosk check-in…down the road.

  3. Will May 26, 2009 at 10:47 pm #

    In-flight, sure go ahead and charge just like Starbucks. $12 for one flight’s worth of wifi sounds reasonable, as long as I receive reliable speeds (say, a steady 512kbps or 1mbps peak.)

    This is just because of the cost of a plane ticket– over $100, making the additional $12 pretty negligible unless I have multiple simultaneous devices (like in a family) or my devices don’t have web browsers compatible with the web-based login scheme (i.e. a Nintendo DS.)

    But hey– does this mean that the FAA is finally admitting that personal electronics pose no danger to planes? It’d be nice to stop being harassed for using my iPod & G1.

  4. alh May 26, 2009 at 11:33 pm #

    i would pay if i get a power plug also. Long flights from europe to us or viceversa are a boring, internet would make them a bit more enjoyable but of course my battery wont last the whole way.

  5. Zac May 27, 2009 at 2:56 am #

    I have actually wrote about this over on my site. It is not as simple as charging people to make extra money. A lot goes into putting the wifi on the plane, and you walk this line of making it cheap so everyone can use it, but making it cost enough to have it pay for the install and service.

    http://www.therunningtally.com/2009/05/wifi-on-airliners/

  6. Anonymous May 27, 2009 at 9:24 am #

    Paying for in-flight wireless Internet access is just another step in the micro-payment business model. It isn’t really any different than paying for each bag to be checked or for a snack box. I believe that this model leads to increased customer dissatisfaction because it makes customers feel like an ‘atm.’ In the coming years we will see a return to all inclusive deals when purchasing air travel or just adding these items on as check boxes on an Internet webpage.

  7. Mary Kirby May 27, 2009 at 9:36 am #

    Air Canada seems to have the ancillary “add on at point of booking” process down to a science, allowing consumers to pick and pay for their snack, added bags, etc when they book their ticket. I’d imagine the logistics of acquiring Gogo (or another in-flight Internet service) at point of booking wouldn’t be too terribly difficult to figure out. Frankly, I’d pay more than $12.95 to surf the Internet on a five-plus hour flight. It allows me to get so much work done in advance of reaching my destination. But, as Anon points out, customers don’t like the ATM “feel” they get when flying. Perhaps a return to all inclusive deals is in the cards.

  8. sparky May 27, 2009 at 10:40 am #

    As an ATP-CFII and A&P-IA, I do some aviation expert witness work from time to time. On a recent case, the pompous attorney I was working with stayed at a $249/night hotel that charged him another $15 for internet access. I stayed at a prefectly acceptable place for $79 a night with internet included. Those numbers speak for themselves.
    In the airline business, of course a plutonium-level frequent flyer would get free internet access, and you wouldn’t want to alienate first- and business class passengers by nickel-diming them. Want a cheap ticket? Better decide how badly you need internet—$9.95 when you buy the ticket, $14.95 on board…

  9. technolojik June 8, 2009 at 7:54 am #

    A lot goes into putting the wifi on the plane, and you walk this line of making it cheap so everyone can use it, but making it cost enough to have it pay for the install and service.

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  11. Mushroom July 5, 2010 at 10:06 am #

    How many people are actually “working” whilst on an aircraft.

    It’s a one hour flight, shut your laptop off and relax for gods sake!

    I suspect the majority are hip, achingly handsome youngsters like myself who only want to know whats going on in the interweb world of the youtubes and facebooks.

    And I ain’t payin’ $12.95 for that!

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