TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: New Heights For In-Flight Internet

New Heights For In-Flight Internet

Marcus Didius Falco (
Wed, 06 Apr 2005 02:47:37 -0400

LONDON, England (CNN) -- The Internet has changed the way many
business travelers book their flights, and now it looks set to change
the culture within the cabin.

No executive wants to arrive at their hotel room after a long-haul
flight and have 100 e-mails waiting for them -- one of the reasons why
German carrier Lufthansa took the lead and installed in-flight
Internet access last May.

Since then Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airlines and Scandinavian
Airlines have followed suit, while Singapore Airlines, China Airlines,
Korean Air and Asiana Airlines have announced their intent to install
the system on long-range aircraft.

"I would kill for Internet access on a flight to Europe, it is
something business travelers want and are willing to pay for," says
Chris McGinnis of Travel Skills Group, a business travel consultancy
in Atlanta, Georgia.

Boeing's Connexion network charges flat-rate fees from $10 on short
flights to $30 for long flights for Internet access, with download
data speeds of five Mbps per aircraft, to be shared among all
in-flight users.

The price compares favorably with those for using in-flight
telephones, which are built into airplane seats. This service -- at
more than $2 a minute -- is still expensive and infrequently used by
business travelers

In-flight Internet access works by sending electronic signals from
planes to orbiting satellites, which are then relayed to ground

Boeing launched the service five years ago, just before the September
11, 2001 attacks.

But at that time U.S. airlines were not in a position to take up the

Many U.S. airlines are still in a difficult position financially and
Delta Airlines is only now considering in-flight Internet -- which
would make it the first domestic U.S. airline to do so.

Connexion now faces competition from OnAir, a European joint venture that
includes Boeing's rival Airbus.

In-flight expectations

Affordable in-flight Internet access could be a source of revenue for
airlines. But service providers may have to bring prices down for
uptake to be significant.

Yet Connexion believes the technology will be a great asset for
airlines, since the Internet is an important tool, and which business
travelers are willing to pay for to catch up on work.

"This technology gives airlines a powerful tool to differentiate
themselves from their competition," Stanley Deal from Connexion says.

However, once more airlines sign on, business travelers may begin to
expect Internet access on major long-haul business routes.

It could then follow the trend at global five star hotels, where
business travelers now expect wireless broadband Internet for free
before checking in.

Despina Afentouli contributed to this report for CNN

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