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.