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Is Free Inflight Wifi a Real Possibility?

We live in an increasingly connected world, which has both good and bad associated with it.  Whether we like it or not that connectivity is only going to increase in coming years, and that includes internet access when we are flying.

In-flight wifi is becoming increasingly more common on airlines around the world with various levels of accessibility and cost across the industry.  For basic travelers they are likely only interested in accessing their email or maybe playing around with social media which can be done relatively inexpensively by purchasing an hour or even a day’s worth of access for those with connecting flights.

Business travelers would likely be interested in greater access which naturally comes with a greater cost.  However, their company is probably going to cover the cost so it likely makes little difference to them how much it costs.

A quick search of a few airline sites revealed that lower end access, which should be sufficient for most people, will cost anywhere from about $5-20.  That isn’t unreasonable, but when you consider many people will have just paid $25 or more just to get their bag on the plane, and may be hungry on the flight which will cost them another $5-10, paying another $20 just may not be worth it to check their email.

On the other hand, if it was free, I think most everyone would use it, if only sparingly.  But how realistic is it to expect widespread free wifi?

It probably isn’t too far-fetched considering some foreign airlines already offer it.  Norwegian offers free access on their domestic flights, and Emirates offers the first 10MB for free on their A380s and 777s.  After that they have a tiered model to pay for certain levels of access.

The reason this even came to mind for me is that Emirates is actively pursuing free wifi for all of their passengers.  Naturally there are some technological and cost restrictions that aren’t allowing that to happen yet, but it is noteworthy that airlines are actively pursuing it.

I personally don’t think many US airlines will provide free wifi access across their fleet, but it may become a feature that they attempt to utilize to distinguish themselves from other offerings. In this era of charging for every little aspect of a flight I just don’t see airlines offering a luxury free of charge.  However, we may see one or two that decide that will help them sell more tickets the way that Southwest has with their free checked bags.

It is not surprising that European and Middle Eastern airlines are leading the way in this area as they generally provide a much better service than US based airlines.  I can’t help but wonder how long it will be before the US airlines are forced to start offering better service because the foreign airlines start taking away the market share.  Regulation will likely prevent that from happening, but with any luck we will see improvements like free wifi becoming more common and maybe even the standard by which all airlines are judged.

What do you think?  Will free wifi ever come to US airlines, or will we have to fly foreign to receive that benefit?

November 6, 2014 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Stunning A320neo sales success continues in 2012

25 January 2012 Press Release

Norwegian, one of the largest low-cost airlines in Europe, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Airbus for 100 A320neo aircraft. The agreement, which makes Norwegian the latest customer for the A320neo and also a new customer for Airbus, was signed by Bjørn Kjos, Chief Executive Officer, Norwegian and John Leahy, Airbus Chief Operating Officer, Customers.

The new aircraft will support Norwegian’s growth and modernisation strategy.  Norwegian (the brand name of Norwegian Air Shuttle AS) operates a network across Europe into North Africa and the Middle East, and is rapidly expanding its low cost operations. The new aircraft will feature a single class cabin layout, seating approximately 180 passengers. Norwegian’s engine decision will be announced at a later date.

“The A320neo will enable us increasing capacity while decreasing our operating costs,” said Bjørn Kjos, Chief Executive Officer, Norwegian. “With this aircraft we will continue to boost our reputation for offering high quality, low fares service with the most modern and eco-efficient fleet of aircraft in Scandinavia”.

“We are very pleased to welcome Norwegian as an all-new Airbus customer. Their A320neo commitment is a further demonstration of the undisputable success of the A320neo’s record-setting credentials. The A320neo sets new industry standards for eco-efficiency and passenger appeal.” said John Leahy.

Over 8,300 A320 Family aircraft have been ordered and some 5,000 delivered to more than 340 customers and operators worldwide reaffirming its position as the world’s best-selling single-aisle aircraft Family. The A320neo has over 95 percent airframe commonality making it an easy fit into existing fleets while offering up to 500 nautical miles (950 kilometres) more range or two tonnes more payload at a given range.

The A320neo is a new engine option for the A320 Family entering into service from 2015 and incorporates latest generation engines and large “Sharklet” wing tip devices, which together will deliver 15 percent in fuel savings. The reduction in fuel burn is equivalent to 1.4 million litres of fuel – the consumption of 1,000 mid size cars, saving 3,600 tonnes of C02 per aircraft per year. The A320neo NOx emissions are 50% below CAEP/6, and this aircraft also has a considerably smaller noise footprint.

January 25, 2012 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.