Kellner and Kelly and an in-flight Wi-Fi revelation to Webb

Continental Airlines expects to make a decision on whether to bring in-flight broadband to passengers sometime next year, but the carrier would like LiveTV to play a role in making that happen, company CEO Larry Kellner told aviation journa-blogger extraordinaire Dan Webb last week at the NBTA conference.

Well, well, well. Isn’t that interesting? Could LiveTV be seriously studying a broadband solution (and will it be Ka-based, as previously suggested?)

Continental, which is equipping its domestic Boeing fleet with LiveTV’s 80-channel live television system, will dip its baby toe into in-flight connectivity early next year when it begins testing the JetBlue Airways subsidiary’s basic Kiteline product.

But one thing Continental won’t ever do is enable in-flight voice calls. Kellner says: “We won’t install phone capability. On the Continental side, we will not do that.”

His comment prompted a round of applause from the audience!?! In-flight voice calls are apparently the devil in the USA, don’t ya know?

You can check out Kellner’s full response at the 37.40 minute mark on the “Airline CEO Panel” video over at the NBTA web site or read it in its entirety below.

Says Kellner:

We’ll continue to study the Wi-Fi area and look at kind of the customer reaction. It’s clear that the trend is going in the direction of Wi-Fi. It’s unclear how heavy that usage is. Our is goal has been to get LiveTV on our domestic fleet and to get BlackBerrys to work so basically you could get Blackberrys or iPhones that have wireless capabilities and get those messages, that’s what Kiteline is. Our hope is we do that at no charge. If we need a broader-band solution, and we’ll watch and listen to our customers, we’ll put one on. We’d like to do that in concert with LiveTV if that’s the decision on where we need to go. I think we want to watch the market evolve a little more. Our strategy has been to go after portable devices which is we watch what our customers carry – if we could get those to work for everybody for free that would obviously be a very good solution. But we need to see how that works out as we roll it out. We’re going to do a test early next year on Kiteline across a number of our planes as we roll out LiveTV. But we’ll also have the capability on the aircraft to do wireless networks as we put in LiveTV so that will give us the flexibility to add broadband if that’s ultimately where we need to go. I would expect we would make the decision sometime next year.

Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly also had some interesting comments about in-flight Wi-Fi (as reported, the carrier intends to go fleet-wide with Row 44′s Ku-band solution).

Says Kelly:

Well I think we’re very excited about Wi-Fi onboard. Just in terms of our brand…our devotion to low cost, our commitment to low fares, it just helps to offer new customer services and experiences that fit that brand. So we felt like Wi-Fi was the cleanest next step for us. It requires minimal installation on the aircraft, as an example, looking to our customers to bring onboard their devices that many people are carrying in their pockets now. I agree with Larry, I think the take rates right now are pretty modest but I think the issue is what’s the future. Where are we going to be three, five, ten years from now? So we’ve tried to make a decision that is taking a little bit longer to explore and evaluate and then install but I think we’re going to be very well positioned for the future there. The other thing that is exciting to us about this opportunity that it is not restricted. We control the product and the offering and so we’ll be able to explorer partnerships in the future with the Row 44 commitment we’re pursuing.

Let me urge you to watch the entire video of Kellner and Kelly. There is lots of great info in there.

Dan Webb.JPG

Now I know what you may be asking – who is Dan Webb?

Webb is an aviation geek at a period in time when aviation geekdom is considered very cool indeed (that would be now).

When Webb’s dad brought home a US Airways Attache magazine in the late 90s, Dan started drawing the future route map for “Dan Airways,” and a passion was born.

As Webb finished high school, he began blogging about the industry over at Things in the Sky and became a co-host of the Airplane Geeks Podcast.

Now entering his sophomore year at Bryant University, Webb has been making some mighty insightful air transport comments as @danwebbage on Twitter.

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One Response to Kellner and Kelly and an in-flight Wi-Fi revelation to Webb

  1. Wandering Aramean September 3, 2009 at 9:24 pm #

    Glad to see that Kellner and Continental are continuing on this path. I still think that free “crappy” internet service is going to be worth more to passengers than paid “full” service will be, at least based on the current price points.

    And it is not surprising that they want to stick with the LiveTV solution. They’ve already got the hardware investment there and staying with the one provider means not carrying around more gear on the planes. Of course, LiveTV has a very narrow spectrum of terrestrial frequencies so I’m not sure what they’d do to add sufficient bandwidth to offer a full service. Maybe they’ll take a page from the old satellite internet providers and use the KiteLine/cell network for uploads and satellite for download.