Wait Goes On For In-Flight Internet

from the holding-pattern dept

The idea of selling in-flight internet access seems like such a no-brainer: you’ve got people in an enclosed environment, plenty of whom are carrying laptops and are shut off from the outside world, whether it’s from work emails or their IM buddy list. Still, nobody’s been able to make it work: Tenzing never really got off the ground, while Boeing has now announced it will shut down its Connexion in-flight internet service by the end of the year. This isn’t a huge surprise, as only a handful of airlines had adopted the service and usage was apparently pretty low. After 9/11 and the subsequent downturn in the US airline industry, no US airlines were willing to spend the $500,000 per plane to install the Connexion equipment, while users balked at paying up to $30 per flight for the service. It’s hard to know if the assumed level of demand simply doesn’t exist, or if it’s a problem with pricing. In any case, with fuel prices hitting airlines’ finances and causing them to shed weight on planes any way they can, and the potential impact of of new security rules on traveling with laptops, in-flight internet looks like it will remain grounded for the time being. Still, other companies are showing some interest in trying to make it work (again), while other airlines are looking to in-flight cellular calls as a new revenue stream. The technology isn’t the issue here — by all accounts, Connexion worked well, and in-flight cellular tests are going well — but nobody’s yet come up with a workable business model.

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Comments on “Wait Goes On For In-Flight Internet”

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TriZz says:


See how Terrorism effects the internet. Gas prices rise – so we can’t add the extra weight to the plane, thus eliminating the ability to fill the tubes from 30,000 ft.

…just like the last story.

For me, it’s a matter of price. I’d love to surf the web for the x amount of time in the air – anything to get my mind off of needing a cigarette, or the non-attractive lady sitting next to me.

Grrr... says:

Angry Consumer

In theory they could provide this service for free to fliers. I’m sure there’s some countries that already do. But this comes back to how ignorant us Americans are and how unreluctant we are to FORCE change on industry that holds us back.

I swear, if we could get as much effort as what’s put out by the mindless drones who clap and roar at Jon Stewart so much as breaking wind and put that towards the consumers of this country demanding what we want (service comparable to other countries AT LEAST)

Man, we might just have something there… have Jon Stewart or Colbert lead thier droves of retards out to these places and have them protest. Hell, they hardly understand why they clap in the audience, I’m sure they’d riot if told to as well.

And no, I’m not a repub, I just hate puppets…

Dan says:

Re: Angry Consumer

#2 I think you’re ignorant about the way markets work. Why would/should a company exist just to make YOU feel comfortable? Companies are in business to make profit. If you want something for “free” I suggest you go to Cuba or North Korea, where they’re currently trying the “free” system.

Airlines can’t even make money with their existing models, let alone adding additional, unneeded expenses to their financial statements.

Jeff says:

OK, get back on the meds...

#2, that type of argument is called ad hominem, look it up.

Anyways, the airlines got the right idea with inflight directTV, $5.00 x 100 people that $500 per flight instead of $30.00 per flight x 5 people =150.00. and that’s only if there are 5 people who can get their company to pay for it, because no one in their right mind would spend $30.00 for strong bad videos.

Tom says:

You can live without internet for X hours.

I wonder if I’d make other passengers uncomfortable playing my XYZ favorite counter-terrorists FPS?


… On another note the instant messaging capabilities between 2 different in-flight 747’s sure could make for some new and interesting terrorist acts.

Couldn’t you fit a nice chunk of plastique in place of one of those extended-life laptop batteries? Just imagine an #irc channel with a dozen folks all awaiting a single keyphrase as a dozen planes near landing.

Or just do without the internet for a few hours and dont sweat it you internet crackheads.


Anonymous Coward says:

An interesting business model is to supply not only broadband access on a plane but also a built in terminal for which to access different things. If travelers can’t bring laptops on board, why not supply it to them (for a fee of course.)

As for the airlines spending money on broadband at no additional cost to consumers, are you serious? Never happen. They are in enough trouble as it is.

Conpu says:


Well…that’s exactly what Boeing does. I’ve had the pleasure of using this service every month when I go between Washington Dulles and Copenhagen on Scandinavian Airlines. Works like a charm, it sucks if they are pulling the plug on it.

I don’t really understand why price should be such an issue. If you are paying $1500-$2000 for the ticket in the first place, adding $25 to get a couple of hours of work (mostly email in my case) in is something I think most employers would pony up. If they don’t, get another job as they obviously have there heads up in…wherever.

Dan says:

Bad Idea for Users

I would never use an Internet connection supplied by an airline. I’d be on the plane reading about my favorite hobby, physics. The a$$hole sitting next to me will see that I’m reading an article about how heavy water is used to enrich uranium and will squeele like a pig. Next thing you know I’m being force fed enemas by two goons from homeland insecurity. Welcome to the land of the free.

Michael Urlocker (user link) says:

Ignore research data; Pay attention to what people

Perhaps one of the lessons from Boeing’s experience is related to market research.

Surveys said people wanted this service. Yet if you watch what most people do on airplanes, the priorities seem to be:

Eat, sleep, drink, watch movie, iPod, etc.

Also, Boeing bet the farm with $1B invested before they understood what customers really wanted. Looked like a sure thing. But that level of investment meant they had to be right and couldn’t adjust as they went.

Our Disruption Scorecard shows two flaws in Boeing management’s approach.

More at:


ITstudent says:

if you don’t consider the securtiy risks, internet on board flights seems like a great idea, especially with the amount of flyers increasing. if there is some businessmen onboard, internet will be an invaluable asset to them. Now with globalised companies, many people need to constantly travel for business. $30 will be nothing to them if they get paid $100 an hour.

John (user link) says:

in flight broadband

Couple of factual points (as I understand them).
AirCell’s cellular based air-to-ground technology is orders of magnitude cheaper to insall and operate than Connexion’s satellite based service. About $100k to install (vs. $500k or more for satellite systems). Passenger price is estimated about $10, not $30 like Connexion. No cell phone service will be available, so no listening to passengers talk for 6 hours while on a transcon flight. VoIP (e.g. Skype) will be blocked too, for passenger comfort. Airlines are not in favor of offering voice service either. So voice communication is not a likely feature in the near future. Some European and other foreign airlines are experimenting with voice service in flight. Its future there is TBD. – Source: AirCell PR guy. Trying to separate fact/fiction/hype as best I can. Cheers. – John

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