In a recent report from aviation analysts, it was found that the prices passengers are paying for inflight Wifi varies wildly, with some airlines offering a free service, and others charging up to £30.
So why the huge difference? Some providers say that the cost of installation of the aircraft system is a significant contributor to the high cost, yet it seems to be mostly the budget airlines offering free access, surprisingly.
Another complaint from passengers is the speed and quality of inflight Wifi. Onboard internet can be provided in two ways – via satellite communications or via air-to-ground communications systems. The air-to-ground option delivers higher speeds, but satellite is necessary for connectivity over oceanic expanses.
A growing number of airline passengers require inflight Wifi. Some commercial passengers want access to social media, or want to stream information, but others require access for business purposes. Executive travellers can often ‘charge’ inflight Wifi to their business expenses, but others are simply refusing to pay high prices that can be comparable with the cost of a monthly broadband fee at home.
Airlines need to look at their options, as it appears that the provision of inflight Wifi may become a source of competition amongst the airline community as time goes by.
A Canadian passenger on a Singapore Airlines flight left us all with a valuable lesson last week after he racked up a whopping $1,171 bill for Wi-Fi connectivity on a flight from London to Singapore.
Mr Jeremy Gutsche was stunned to receive the bill after purchasing a 30 megabyte internet plan for less than $30. He unknowingly used his allowance and although aware that he would be responsible for charges beyond the 30MG usage, was shocked to realise that viewing 155 pages and uploading a PowerPoint document landed him with such a huge bill.
The provider of the onboard Wi-Fi connectivity service for Singapore Airlines, Swiss-based OnAir, argued that the charges offer ‘complete transparency’, and give passengers the choice to end sessions when charges reach a certain amount and graphic data usage displays consumption.
Mr Gutsche said, “Just because someone agrees to terms and conditions doesn’t mean those terms are ethical. I think the overage model is excessive and I can imagine someone like my mom, or a family, or a backpacker going aimlessly over.”
According to Euroconsult, satellite and communications consulting firm, just 6% of flight passengers use in-flight services – perhaps for this very reason. The demand for in-flight provision in the modern world is increasing and cost-efficient solutions are becoming a growing part of the competitive side of the business for airlines worldwide.
Rockwell Collins, through its acquisition of ARINC Inc. last year plan to become a one-stop-shop for airlines for IFE and on-board connectivity solutions.
Cabin Connect, operating over Inmarsat SwiftBroadband, provides Wi-Fi and inflight connectivity on a global scale. Next year, via its recently-finalised agreement with Inmarsat to become a Value Added Reseller for Global Xpress – GX Aviation – Rockwell Collins will focus on Cabin Connect retrofitting, urging customers to begin now with Cabin Connect on the lower bandwidth of L-band SwiftBroadband and upgrade to Ka-band ‘when you and your customers are ready’.
Cabin Connect, with its cabin connectivity solution, plus avionics and ACARS datalink services for the flight deck, could deliver a complete package to airlines. Huy Tran, director of marketing and business development for Rockwell Collins said, “There’s many companies who have a single product line, not many companies actually have the full breadth. The companies that are going to be successful are the ones that have all the product lines, because airlines don’t want to shop around for various components.”
Rockwell Collin effectively dropped out of the IFE marketplace in 2006, but the introduction of their new PAVES system and subsequent MoU with Hubei Ali Jiatai, Chinese aircraft seat-makers to include PAVES in next-gen Boeing 737’s for Chinese carriers has placed them firmly back in action. The plans for the ARINC Cabin Connect suite will cement their stake in the current and future market of IFE.
In a market where there is close competition, Rockwell Collins is confident that Cabin Connect will fulfill IFE connectivity promises and deliver a comprehensive solution for global airlines.