Two Airlines Move Ahead With In-Flight Internet Plans

from the looking-through-the-clouds dept

One of the many modern tech myths seems to be the idea that in-flight internet access is guaranteed to be a success, even though this has proven not to be the case. The supposed demand for the service among travelers hasn't been enough to overcome the cost of the service, both for airlines and end users, and technical barriers, as highlighted by the failure of Boeing's much-hyped Connexion service. Now, however, one of the airlines that offered Connexion, Lufthansa, says it's working with T-Mobile to bring back in-flight internet access, while American has signed a deal with AirCell to offer its service to travelers on some planes. Lufthansa wants a system that supports WiFi, but also SMS and cellular data, though it won't allow cellular voice calls; American plans to test WiFi access on some transcontinental domestic flights before deciding whether to proceed. The American system will differ from Connexion in that it won't use satellites, but an air-to-ground radio system, explaining why it will only be available domestically. Hopefully this will translate into lower costs for consumers than the $30 per flight Connexion charged, otherwise the service will suffer the same fate. Lufthansa is reportedly looking at a satellite-based system for its long-haul flights, and unless it's figured out some way to slash the costs of such a system and pass the savings on to consumers, it's hard to see things working out any better this time around.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2007 @ 4:12am


    "Hopefully this will translate into lower costs for consumers than the $30 per flight Connexion charged, otherwise the service will suffer the same fate."

    That is like asking NOT to have to pay $3 for a soda at the airport. They KNOW they have a captive audience. Whatever their cost to provide the service they will mark it up so much that it will be expensive for the consumer anyway. Airlines are not any better than the movie industry when it comes that that type thing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    James, Aug 2nd, 2007 @ 4:59am

    Level of service

    It seems like (for this to be successful) the cost to the customer would depend somewhat on their level of service (ie first class, business, coach, etc.) and the length of their flight.

    No one is going to pay $30 for a short flight but if it were an 8 hour+ flight, then suddenly it might be reasonable.

    There are technical hurdles for the airline, no doubt, but I think its worth pursuing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2007 @ 6:04am

    It won't be long before they give it to everyone for "free", and make it part of the cost of everyone's airline ticket.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Tim, Aug 2nd, 2007 @ 6:17am


    I don't think this is going to fly.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Joel Coehoorn, Aug 2nd, 2007 @ 6:27am

    Internet access is seen by many as a utility. We expect it to be available pretty much everywhere, and provided at something close to cost. If it costs too much more than that people will see it for what it is and avoid it in disgust. Once they find a way to do this for low enough cost, than a difference of $1 or 2 won't matter if the more expensive airline has internet available. But it must be included with the ticket price.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    gus, Aug 2nd, 2007 @ 6:36am


    "I don't think this is going to fly." Tim

    Actually I disagree. Business long haul people (like myself) will definitely use it. $30 on top of a long-haul ticket is negligable, it goes on expenses anyway so not noticeable. Overnight flights not such a big deal but if I have to do a daytime long-haul, having access to webmail means I can be busy and productive for the whole flight rather than being incommunicado.

    Yes, the average holiday-maker ain't going to be forking out, but I bet a large chunk of the business travel community will.

    (nice pun btw)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Nasty Old Geezer, Aug 2nd, 2007 @ 6:44am

    Re: Business

    As long as you specify 'long-haul' then I would agree. I have traveled extensively in the US on business -- but it is usually flights with air time of under an hour. I am not going to pay $60 or $90 extra ($30 times 2 or 3 flight segments) for what will amount to under an hour total access, especially with a 3 hour layover where I can use free or low cost WiFi in the airport.

    If you take the into account the take-off and landing intervals, boot-up, and shut-down -- on a 75 minute flight I wind up with maybe 30 to 40 minutes of usable time. If I work at all, I keep local copies and use them directly.

    In addition -- if this lets serial yakkers connect via VOIP, I will never get on another airplane.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Overcast, Aug 2nd, 2007 @ 6:55am

    In addition -- if this lets serial yakkers connect via VOIP, I will never get on another airplane.

    Oh god, I can't even imagine that. Glad to see non-stop talkers annoy others as much as me.

    Some people act like they are literally powered by a phone on the ear. If it's not there, they slowly loose energy.

    And you know - some would be more than happy to pay $30 to talk while they are flying. The worst part being - in order to 'get their money's worth' - they'd have to talk non-stop....

    $30.00 is too much for me! I'd much rather read a book. Heck, even $10.00 is debatable. Often on a plane, my mood on what I want to do changes a lot, and if I happen to find someone friendly to talk with, I will do so. Of course, I don't go non-stop and I'm not as obnoxious as those cell phone people who want everyone to hear about their life....

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Tim, Aug 2nd, 2007 @ 7:06am

    Business - gus

    Thanks gus The pun was intentional. I gave up using my lap top on flights a long time ago, except in dire emergencies. If I need to read something on flight I print it out instead. Heck I do that even in the office as I find it much easier to read things of importance on paper not on screen. Not sure why that is, it just is. If I need to read email - well I hate email I prefer to talk. Flights also give me time to think without being distracted by office chatter or phones - its good downtime. Now something that would be great on a flight is gaming. That I would pay for. 1st class versus coach. Think about it.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Bob Jones, Aug 2nd, 2007 @ 8:33am

    $30 seems reasonable for anything over 4 hours, its around a 10th of a regular ticket.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Dick Fer, Aug 5th, 2007 @ 9:28am

    Airline executives

    As much as airlines are trying to reach the holy grail... low cost internet access, they don't _really_ want it low cost. They want to make it just low enough that people will pay for it... but they want it high enough that they can add margin to their flight profits. The airlines are not here to give away internet access. They are here to extract money from the buying public while hauling them from point A to point B.
    I highly doubt anyone will price their access under $10 per flight.
    Satellite access makes sense because it introduces enough latency that VoIP is not going to work... and we all know how everyone would HATE sitting within 3 rows of some moron who calls Aunt Belinda to discuss the latest dog show results using their VoIP phone during a long flight. It's very easy to see some irate passenger turn medieval and beat the living daylights out of the previously mentioned moron.
    Personally, I would definitely find an opportunity to "spill" my hot coffee in said moron's lap.
    Internet access does have its' appeal. I'd like to process my business expenses. Our new system doesn't let me maintain a spreadsheet and upload it... our company has the wisdom to require realtime internet access to process expenses.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Philips VOIP, Aug 14th, 2007 @ 11:53am

    I am definately in the camp of "I got on this flight to fly and NOT hear you talk about Aunt Fannies last month visit."

    The problem is IF they allow you to connect to VOIP services on these flights, my company, Philips has a USB VOIP phone (VOIP080) that works thru SKYPE and I along with all of you will be subjected to these torturous calls.

    I guess it's time to invest in a good set of Noise Cancellation headphones...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    cejay, Jan 23rd, 2008 @ 3:30pm

    Price right for market

    I could see this being very popular with the young crowd. The ability to text message non-stop while streaming their music and/or videos would make them very happy while sitting in a plane. Price would matter some but I doubt they would think twice if it was $10.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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