Free in-flight Wi-Fi will see airport/airline battle lines drawn

JiWire chart.JPG

We know that Wi-Fi, both on the ground and in the air, is trending towards the land of the free.

But throw that into the context of JiWire’s new report, which says 80% of business travellers spend over 30min online in airports, and you’ve got an interesting battle brewing.

How will the airport hotspot make a dime if airlines are offering free Wi-Fi promos in-flight?

I think it’s probably fair to say that once passengers get well and truly accustomed to free Wi-Fi , they’ll expect it all the time.

Aircell, which is now providing air-to-ground (ATG)-based in-flight broadband on more than 600 aircraft, including a couple Air Canada birds, reports the company served its one millionth customer in October. 

At the current rate of expansion and with users fast approaching 100,000 per week, the two millionth user is now expected to be reached in January 2010, it says. Aircell president and CEO Ron LeMay says hundreds of thousands of these customers represent paid users.

But again, the taste of freedom is intoxicating.

My Aunt Rita in Dublin used to sing a song to us as kids. “Free, free, I want to be free. Free to walk among the flowers and to taste the summer showers….”

Altogether now. Free, free, free…………………

Check out JiWire’s entire report at the following link. JiWire Mobile Audience Insights
Report_Q3 2009.pdf

And then read Engadget’s stonking piece on how American has launched an online widget to let customers sniff out in-flight Wi-Fi.

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7 Responses to Free in-flight Wi-Fi will see airport/airline battle lines drawn

  1. Anon November 20, 2009 at 8:30 am #

    It ain’t going to help Gogo.

    From http://airfax.com/blog/index.php/2009/11/16/google-to-provide-free-airport-wi-fi/

    Google To Provide Free Airport Wi-Fi!You read it right, this holiday season in the US (sorry Europe, Asia) Google from Silicon Valley is providing travelers at 47 US airports free Wi-Fi. The free service commenced November 10 and runs till January 15, 2010. At Seattle-Tacoma (SEA) and Burbank (BUR) airports, Google’s Andrew Pederson told us that the service will continue indefinitely. Google said, … we like people online. Rightfully so! This free offering from Google led to the Virgin-Airlines-Free-Holiday-Inflight-Wi-Fi’ that was initiated about a month ago, helping drive the airborne leg. However, we were most interested in the airport arrangement and contacted SEA and BUR asking about the deal drivers why forgo revenue that can easily exceed $100K per year?Perry Cooper from progressive Seattle-Tacoma airport told us that they were very excited about the offer since they had a free Wi-Fi concept in their internal planning for 2010 and Google came along at just the right time. Seattle is now winding down a contract with AT&T, but expects everything to be in place in the very near future. At BUR airport, a spokesperson was not so optimistic about a free Wi-Fi future but this is where you readers can help. In fact US airports like SFO and LAX are not participating, probably because they do have exclusive service providers or advertising contracts and cannot participate; however, if travelers make it a point to contact their airport authority on the web or by phone and thank them if they participated in the free airport Wi-Fi from Google or tell them to adopt the Google deal if they did not… this could take off.Check the links below for more information about participating airports. Further, send this Hot Topic to airport authorities in Asia, Europe and your backyard and help make a difference. We have all seen costly pay phones almost disappear at airports (killed by cell phones) and as a replacement, service providers and most airports alike, jumped on the paid Wi-Fi bandwagon. Gouging (yes, we said gouging) the traveling public seems natural in that greed driven environment. IFExpress has been on a mission for free airport Wi-Fi and we finally have a chance to change airports so do your part. Remember, this is only a free service through the holidays. We recommend our readers beg their local airports and Google to keep this service alive after January 15, 2010. In many instances Google is installing the infrastructure and we fear that the airports may well turn them over to paid providers after the event closes.There is one catch though, it is free, it is public, and there will be some bad actors trying to steal identities, passwords, and your money. There are a few safeguards and we have a link below to PCWorld’s common sense precautions you should consider if you do surf a la Google.We should mention that Google has asked for charitable contributions in lieu of connectivity payments they only ask that you contribute to a very worthwhile charity, Engineers Without Borders (link below). Come to think of it, a few of our readers could probably contribute an idea or two. Feel free to do so, these folks are only trying to make the world a better place thru brainpower.▪

  2. Anon2 November 20, 2009 at 10:04 am #

    With the current state of the flight industry(charging for bagage, cutting out snacks/drinks, some would say service in general, etc.) how can one expect additional service for free?

    Most people pay to access the internet from their homes why should it be any different when they’re out and about….Businesses are in place to make money from services provided.

  3. David Parker Brown November 20, 2009 at 12:05 pm #

    Well, it isn’t just airlines. Quite a few airports are offering free Wi-Fi via Google for the holidays. And Seattle and Burbank will be offering free Wi-Fi forever as well. There have only been a few times I have ever paid for a hotspot. I can always get a free wi-fi or just wait.

    With the addition of smart phones, people have an expectation of free internet anywhere, anytime. I know once I am able to tether my laptop to my iPhone for internet, hotspots will never get a dime from me again :)

    David

  4. Jonathan Thornburg November 21, 2009 at 1:16 pm #

    @anon2:
    To the extent that passengers have choices about which airlines and airports they fly through, competition may force free wifi. There are certainly airports that I will go to some lengths (including paying higher ticket prices) to *avoid*, so I can imagine an airline running ads saying “X% of our flights are from airports with free wifi”.

    Of course, “free” here really means “cost bundled into other things”. It’s instructive to consider sidewalks in cities. They cost a lot of money to build and maintain… but I know of few places where users (pedestrians) have to pay to walk on them.

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  6. Search Engine Optimisation August 7, 2010 at 7:34 am #

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  7. jennifer November 8, 2010 at 3:54 pm #

    Is free Inflight Wi-Fi only on domestic flight?