The Disconnect In Demand For In-Flight Broadband And Service Success

from the something-doesn't-match-up dept

Boeing's decision to shut down Connexion, its in-flight broadband service, wasn't too surprising, given the few carriers that had rolled out it. But in some sense, it was puzzling, because there's such an apparent interest in in-flight broadband -- something backed up by yet another survey about it. So, if interest is so high, why can't somebody make in-flight internet access work? Connexion has failed, Tenzing's big plans never took off, and Airfone's overly expensive and underwhelming services were never popular. The biggest problem is the tremendous cost of outfitting airlines with the equipment to make the systems work, with Connexion's costs reported to be up to $500,000 per plane. With the airline industry bouncing from one financial crisis to another, and the most successful carriers being those that can hold their costs down the best, this is a pretty insurmountable hurdle. The bigger problem is that the real demand for this service, in all likelihood, isn't as high as all these surveys and media stories would indicate -- or in a world of free WiFi hotspots, demand falls off the table once a fee is introduced. Interest in the services carries on, with several companies participating in a recent FCC auction to secure licenses for air-to-ground spectrum. It sounds like most of these companies will use different technology than Boeing's satellite-based system, which could help them lower costs, but the more fundamental question they've got to answer is whether the demand to pay for this sort of service actually exists. Airline JetBlue was one of the winners of that auction, and it could use free in-flight internet access in the same way it uses its in-flight TV: as a perk to encourage business. That could be a more workable model, but still, an expensive one.

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  1. identicon
    Tyshaun, 30 Aug 2006 @ 12:42pm

    Re: Re: Seat Size

    Yeah. the fact of the matter is, hadly anyone is going to pay more for a larger seat if they can pay less for a smaller seat. You have this option as first class if you want. Whiny people that complain about cheapness and tiny seats just want bigger seats without having to pay. If people were willing to pay, I promise there would be more room in the seats. When my flights are $100 for coach and $200 for 1st class, then I might think about first class. When my flights are $500 for coach I can deal with the tiny seats.

    You hit the nail on the head about the price difference. Being a big guy (6'3'' 325 lbs) I'm always annoyed at just how small airline seats are (even compared to theater seats, which are notoriously small). What annoys me more is that on the same flight a $300 coach seat exists with a $1200 or so first class seat. Why 3 times as much? The seat isn't 3 times as big. First class services aren't nearly as nice as they once were. Most times I end up just buying 2 adjacent coach seats and wishing I could figure out something to do with the my knees. So you are right, if airlines could price "perks" like first/business class and broadband access in the "not extorsion" level pricing, more people would take advantage of it. Rught now, US airlines are content to pack folks in like sardines and cry poverty every couple of years.

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