We live in an increasingly connected world, which is now spreading to airlines. Many carriers now offer Wi-Fi (wireless Internet) access on their flights around the world.
It is not particularly cheap, with four hours of service costing US$19 on some American Airlines long haul services. Since domestic flights are very short, would it not make sense to offer the service for free?
Free Wi-Fi is Available
In Australia, both domestic airlines offer free Internet services on their local routes. On Qantas, it is free and fast for all passengers at all times. Their competitor Virgin Australia provides a certain amount free, then you pay for more.
According to Qantas, less than 10% of customers use Internet services on flights. They expect 30-50% of people to use it as it is free and promises to be fast.
What Is The Best Solution?
Installing Wi-Fi is no simple thing. Qantas state it took 10 engineers 900 man hours – or 12 working days – to install the system on their first Boeing 737. The cost of the system installation is not cheap, plus there is also the lost revenue to take into account with the aircraft out of service.
A Financial Times article from 2015 lays out the figures. In the USA for a GoGo type installation, it costs around US$80,000 per aircraft. Satellite based systems used in Europe and Australia can cost up to US$400,000 per aircraft. This is a lot of money in anyone’s book.
When considering that kind of expense, you want your customers to use it. Since paid services result in a take-up of less than 10% it seems silly to go to all that trouble and then have it hardly used.
As a result, a free service seems to be the way forward. While carriers will lose the chance to earn revenue off the system, first movers will have a USP that will give them an edge from a marketing perspective over the competition.
Having access to the world via your device while flying makes the time pass far more quickly than it does without. Each time I have used it, while it can be spotty in places, it is usually pretty good and the technology is only going to get better. When I flew Qantas, it was particularly good.
In the short term, it would be best to offer the service for free to get everyone used to using it on board. Charges could then be introduced, such as adding a nominal charge during booking which adds your login code to your boarding pass.
What do you think? Should Wi-Fi be offered by airlines for free on domestic routes? Have you used it before? With who and what did you think of the service and pricing? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.
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Featured image and Qantas 737 by Kurt Ams / Qantas.
Everything comes with a cost. The “free” wi-fi will have to be paid for somehow. Whether it means squeezing an extra row of seats, rising ticket prices, or reducing service/amenities, the money will have to come from somewhere.
I agree with you completely. The reason it’s free at Qantas is because they charge quite a lot for their tickets, so I’m quite well aware of that. Thanks for the comment!
I’m fine with paying for it as long as the cost is reasonable. $19 for a transcon flight is a bit too much considering everything airlines have taken away already. If this was the ‘only’ item to be priced separately then fine. I like Delta’s approach of free messaging applications while in flight. It’s great as the device is already in the hands of the user and if the cost is reasonable they will typically easily pay a couple of dollars for a few hours. AA’s version of zero-anything-included is a non-starter.
True, I think a couple of dollars would make sense. I didn’t know Delta had free messaging applications while in flight. That’s a really good idea – it could be certain applications free and pay for more. Thanks for the comment!