Aircell weeks away from monetizing Gogo web portal

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In-flight Internet service provider Aircell is poised to launch brand new functionality to its Gogo web portal, as a means of "monetizing" the links page and creating new revenue opportunities "that airlines will participate in as well".

Speaking to ATI today, Aircell executive vice-president, airlines John Happ revealed that the company is "a week or maybe two weeks away" from introducing the new functionality, which will see it "take advantage of the ability to whitelist URLs".

Whitelisting allows Aircell to explicitly define which URLs its portal can access for free, creating a sort of walled garden experience for passengers who do not want to pay for unfettered access to the Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi service.

"This approach really opens up a whole new pathway for us in terms of working with various sponsors or advertising or strategic partners," says Happ.

At present, a few web functions are offered for free via Gogo, including access to Frommer's online travel guides and to a limited selection of articles from The Wall Street Journal.

But the new web portal functionality will take Gogo "way beyond what our capability is right now" and allow Aircell and airlines to better engage third party vendors, says Happ.

While Aircell's focus remains on the pay-for-service model, "the ability to have what some people call walled gardens is also available to the firm", notes Happ.

At the same time, however, there will be "lots of ways" to create interaction with Gogo.

"Perhaps an automaker wants to do something more interactive with a targeted audience. A passenger who has not paid for Gogo could click through, watch a 30sec flash advert that shows off the new automobile, and then perhaps that lets the passenger into a sponsorship link where he or she is given full, complementary Internet access," says Happ.

As of this morning, the installed base for Gogo was 777 aircraft across several airlines, including AirTran Airways, Delta Air Lines and Virgin America, among others.

"I think what you'll see over the next year, as we turn more and more of our focus into monetizing the portal, the name of the game for us and our partners will be to create the greatest overall revenue opportunities while upgrading the customer experience. We feel that we've been delivering on the second part pretty much from day one, but the first part, the monetizing of the portal, awaited a certain amount of development," says Happ.

In all instances, Aircell holds revenue-sharing agreements with its airline partners, according to the Aircell executive.

He adds: "There are just so many evolutionary steps of maximizing of what the baseline product is all about. That future and that whole area is wide open and extremely bright."