Swiss International Air Lines is taking a wait and see approach to in-flight Internet, saying it will only bring the service onboard if it can offer it to all passengers.

The Zurich-based carrier's parent, Lufthansa, is working with T-Mobile, ViaSat and others to reinstate Ku-band-based connectivity on overseas flights, after the 2006 demise of Connexion by Boeing left the German operator without a service provider.

Like Lufthansa, Swiss is interested in offering passengers high-speed Internet. But Harry Hohmeister, who last week was selected to replace Christoph Franz as Swiss' new chief, says the technology "has not developed fast enough" to support high-speed Internet for more than 40 passengers at any given time.

Speaking to ATI last week in New York, Hohmeister said offering anything less than aircraft-wide connectivity would degrade the carrier's strategy for providing an "all inclusive" in-flight product that includes offering quality meals and in-flight entertainment in each of its first-, business- and economy-class cabins.

"The technology can't give it to everybody and if it can't give it to everybody, it won't do for business people in economy class," says Hohmeister.

ViaSat director of regulatory affairs Daryl Hunter says that there is "no specific limit" to the number of passengers that can be connected with the company's system. "It's really more of a provisioning question of how much bandwidth the airline wishes to allocate per aircraft, and therefore how much bandwidth would be available per customer."

Swiss' new A330-300s are configured with three classes of service. "Certainly, the more cabins, the more difficult the job of insuring everyone's going to have good Wi-Fi signal coverage," says Hunter.

"Typically multiple access points will be used to insure that there's good coverage throughout all the cabins. There is some extra cost associated with that hardware and its installation - over what would be expected for a single class/cabin aircraft."

He adds: "Assuming that you have good connectivity between the passengers and the wireless access point, the rest of the connectivity experience will be left up to the link off the aircraft, be it satellite or air to ground."

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news