Last year Lufthansa announced that it was bringing broadband to its short-haul flights in partnership with Inmarsat and Deutsche Telekom. The company’s Chairman and CEO, Carsten Spohr described this development as “of extreme importance.” If anything this is an understatement. If you look at sectors ranging from hotels to coffee shops, broadband has changed them utterly.
The change that Airlines will see is likely to be greater and faster. All the Technology is already here – except (in most cases) fast, reliable broadband. Moreover, people are so used to being online that they often feel digital withdrawal on long-haul flights. Small wonder that a recent Inmarsat survey of 9000 fliers showed 83% of passengers would choose an airline that offered inflight Wi-Fi over a similar carrier that didn’t.
So, what is likely to change for passengers?
For starters, broadband is likely to make people happier. Most people find long-haul flights very dull. Of course, you can watch a couple of films and read a book, but that still leaves another six hours to kill. But if passengers can use social media, shop, catch up on box sets, play online games and explore their destination virtually, they are likely to be a lot less bored. This, as anyone who’s travelled with kids will tell you, is very important. The dead time they spend in the air will suddenly be useful, fun time. They’ll enjoy flights more and this will engender loyalty and reduce dissatisfaction.
It’s likely that airlines will be able to charge for Wi-Fi initially. But in the long term, expect some to offer it for free. However, this doesn’t mean there will be no money to be made.
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