Norwegian to test on-board wireless Internet

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Norwegian is planning to test several customer service initiatives this year, including on-board wireless Internet capability, biometric recognition and new boarding processes.

It is aiming to begin Internet access from the end of this summer, enabling passengers to access websites and e-mail on laptops. The airline's customers will also be able to make mobile phone calls in-flight via the service.

Speaking to ATI during the recent French Connect networking conference in Shannon, Norwegian chief operating officer Daniel Skjeldam said: "We're jumping over on board [mobile phone] use and going straight to wireless Internet access."

The airline is undecided about how it will derive income from the service. Skjeldam says: "For business customers we will offer wireless access cheaply, perhaps even for free, but we will charge our leisure customers. We haven't finalised how it will work, but it will generate ancillary revenues for the company and it will be far cheaper than GSM technology."

Norwegian is also looking to roll out new innovations on the ground. Skjeldam says: "We are working on second-generation biometric solutions, using two fingers for check-in and to board the aircraft. We see so many hassles being added to the travel experience and we believe this is something which will simplify things for our customers."

He says the scheme was trialled at Rygge Airport over the winter and will now be rolled out at up to four other airports, noting: "We were very satisfied with the results."

Norwegian is also keen to tap the potential of mobile phones. Skjeldam says the airline has developed a mobile phone portal, where customers can book tickets and check if their flight is on time. Norwegian is also using mobile phones as a substitute for boarding cards. Passengers are sent a bar-code which can be used from their mobile phone display to go airside and board the flight.

"So far it's working very well and we strongly believe in mobiles for booking tickets, changing tickets and as a platform for business market," says Skjeldam.