Wi-Fi is coming to an airline near you. It's about time.
Last week Air Tran announced that it would be the first carrier to have its entire fleet wired with Wi-Fi networks. Now, Delta, Virgin, Air Canada and a host of others are in a mad dash to offer the ability for passengers to connect via a wireless network to their lap tops, Blackberry or other PDA devices.
It isn't free though. And, as Joe Sharkey points out in his column today, a real question exists as to whether passengers will cough up the $9.95 fee (for short flights) or the $12.95 expenditure for those flights over three hours.
Initially, the move to wireless seemed like a natural money maker for this industry. After all, it only costs about $100 per plane to install. So, before our economy hit rock bottom this seemed like a no brainer. Now, everyone is watching costs and no one wants to be nickeled and dimed.
Shockey also rightfully complains that the tiny seats provided on short flights makes it damn near impossible to actually maneuver and type on a laptop effectively. No doubt that can be a hindrance. But, overall this blogger believes that the flight to finally install a real connection to our business world (as in Wi-Fi) during our flights is a long time coming. And, there is no doubt that this will be a true win-win scenario for all.
Just think about some of the "pain" you've experienced and this will make sense. How many times have you been in the middle of a timely email, only to have to shut down for three or four hours because those are the rules? Or, as you've passed the time away reading airline magazines and eating peanuts, how often have you wondered whether your colleagues received that important prospect call to let the team know whether the account (or piece of new business) was won or lost?
Yes, times are tough. But, these times will pass. And, even so, serious professionals will gladly hand out $12.95 to stay connected to the world they so depend upon and to be as efficient with their productivity as possible.
My bet is that by the end of 2010, airlines will only be kicking themselves for not installing this new incremental revenue line sooner. Who knows? Maybe one of the more marketing minded carriers will actually copy fast food franchises and offer us a "value combo." For just $16.95, we'll be given Wi-Fi access, a pillow/blanket and a thumb-sized bottle of our favorite liquor bottle to boot. Now, wouldn't that be something...