US Airways likely to broaden Wi-fi in the future to remain competitive

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US Airways believes that despite low take-up rates for its in-flight Internet connectivity, at some point it will have to offer the product fleet-wide to remain competitive.

The carrier debuted Aircell's Gogo Wi-fi offering last year, opting to feature the product on its fleet of 51 Airbus A321s. At that time the carrier stated plans to charge 4.95 for Gogo on flights up to 1.5h for use on laptops or mobile devices, while the costs for flights of 1.5-3h was $9.95 for laptops and $7.95 for mobile devices.

For flights lasting more than 3h, US Airways planned to charge $12.95 for Gogo use on laptops and $7.95 for use on mobile equipment.

Carrier president Scott Kirby during the airline's annual media day on 6 April characterised the Gogo usage rate as low, below 5%. But he noted that's fairly consistent with the average rate across the industry. However, the carrier recognises that in-flight Wi-fi is "something that's prevalent across the industry", says Kirby.

Speaking to ATI at the same event US Airways SVP marketing and planning Andrew Nocella explained in-flight Wi-fi is becoming ubiquitous, and the economics of the offering do improve every day. "But they are [the economics] still below investment grade in our opinion."

Nocella states the expectation is at some point US Airways will roll-out Wi-fi on its domestic fleet. "But we're not quite there yet," he says.

US Airways has evaluated seat-back in-flight entertainment offerings, says Kirby. But with fuel prices climbing to $120 per barrel the carrier "has stopped looking at things like this". He also states US Airways has no plans to offer power plugs on their aircraft, as US Airways management concludes the outlets are hard to maintain.