In-flight Internet Access Moves Ahead On US Carriers

While airlines have been toying with the idea of in-flight internet access for some time now, decreasing passenger numbers and increasing competitiveness between rival airlines in the US, may prove to be the driving force behind the idea becoming a reality. A number of US carriers, including United Airlines, Southwest Airlines and American Airlines, are either testing or have reached the stage of implementing Wi-Fi access on selected flights, marketing this facility as a draw-card for passengers.

Increasing consumer demand has spurred airlines on to overcome the two main initial obstacles for implementing Wi-Fi – technological glitches and cost. Technology continues to progress in leaps and bounds and has reached the point where in-flight internet access is working well, and while this may allow the leisure traveler to surf the net for the entertainment value it provides, business people appreciate the fact that their traveling time can be spent productively.

The current global financial turmoil is having a very negative impact on the travel industry, so from the financial point of view, spending money on what many perceive to be non-essential technology may not seem wise. However, an independent study conducted during 2008 by Forrester Research revealed that of the leisure travelers surveyed, approximately half said they are willing to pay for up to $10 for in-flight internet access on a long flight. It stands to reason that the percentage is likely to be even higher for business travelers, where the adage “time is money” often applies. So it would seem that airlines will not only cover the cost of implementing in-flight internet access, but may even make some money out of the deal – making it an even more attractive option.

American Airlines is currently testing Aircell’s Gogo Inflight Internet on a number of its flights and is expected to make a decision soon as to whether to offer the service across its entire fleet. United Airlines expects to have the service available on its nonstop flights between New York and San Francisco, as well as New York and Los Angeles, before the end of the year. Both Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines are currently testing an alternative Wi-Fi service.

Certainly in-flight internet access is of great benefit to those who rely on technology to keep them in touch with the world around them, and may very well be the deciding factor when travelers choose which airline to give their business to.