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Old September 14th, 2009, 04:17 PM
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Airlines racing to connect with in-flight Wi-Fi service




Seven dollars for a pillow and blanket on JetBlue Airways. Twenty-five dollars to book a flight by phone or in person with Delta Air Lines. Twenty-five dollars to send an unaccompanied minor on Southwest Airlines.

Airlines are requiring fees of all kinds. And now comes a charge that the airlines hope won't make you cringe: an in-flight wireless Internet connection fee.

The race is on among the nation's largest airlines to install the circuitry that lets passengers go wireless while jetting 35,000 feet above the ground.

Southwest announced last month that it was moving ahead with plans to install satellite-enabled broadband on its entire fleet by early next year. It is using Row 44, a private technology firm. Southwest has yet to announce a pricing plan for the service.

Last month, Delta, the world's largest carrier, announced it had installed Wi-Fi in more than 70 percent of its domestic fleet. American Airlines also announced in August that it had installed Wi-Fi in 100 MD-80 planes, with plans to install the service on an additional 50 airplanes by the end of the year.

What makes airlines believe that passengers will fork over as much as $12.95 to check e-mail, update their Facebook status and tweet about their weekend plans?

A new survey by the Wi-Fi industry suggests that most business travelers will pick an airline with Wi-Fi service over flights with meal service, free movies or convenient arrival time.

The survey, commissioned by the Wi-Fi Alliance, a nonprofit industry group, found that 76 percent of the 480 frequent business travelers interviewed would choose an airline based on the availability of in-flight Internet service.

More than 70 percent of those surveyed would choose an airline with Wi-Fi over one that provided meal service, and 55 percent said they would shift their flight by one day if it meant getting the in-flight service, according to the survey.

But so far, passengers are not using airborne Wi-Fi in such high percentages.

On Virgin America, the first U.S. airline to offer Wi-Fi throughout its fleet, 10 percent to 15 percent of passengers pay for the service. On transcontinental flights, up to 25 percent of passengers take the service, according to airline representatives.

Virgin uses Wi-Fi services by Aircell, a company that provides mobile broadband for eight airlines.

Most airlines with Internet service offer a Wi-Fi price schedule that increases with the length of the flight. Aircell pricing ranges from $5.95 for flights lasting 90 minutes or less to $12.95 for flights longer than three hours.

JetBlue, on the other hand, plans to offer free e-mail and instant-messaging services on 20 of its Airbus A320 planes beginning this year.

Kelley Davis-Felner, marketing director for the Wi-Fi Alliance, said the survey's results made one thing clear: "Staying connected is a thing that business workers are comfortable paying for."

But other observers believe that it may be a matter of time before market forces prompt airlines to offer free Wi-Fi, at least for frequent fliers.

"As more and more services get introduced on airlines, will they be able to sustain the Wi-Fi fee?" asked Michael McCormick, executive director of the National Business Travel Association. "There will be continued pressure on airlines to offer it as a core service."
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Old September 14th, 2009, 05:28 PM
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Re: Airlines racing to connect with in-flight Wi-Fi service

The way they charge fees, its time the airlines offered 'standing' travel for short journeys.
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Old September 14th, 2009, 06:13 PM
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Re: Airlines racing to connect with in-flight Wi-Fi service

Quote:
Originally Posted by echarcha View Post
The way they charge fees, its time the airlines offered 'standing' travel for short journeys.
I wouldn't be surprised if Air India is already doing it
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