Should Airline IFC Business Models Reflect Coffee Shops and Hotels?

Upon reaching out to several low-cost airlines for the cover story in this edition, one of the aspects of in-flight connectivity for commercial airlines that I kept trying to figure out was why the majority of carriers do not view the technology similar to the way coffee shops and hotels do. But the answer to that question is much more complicated than simply acknowledging that the majority of airline passengers will use the service if it is fast, free, and relatively easy to access.

Starbucks for example used to charge its customers by the hour to access and use the internet within its shops. That practice stopped in 2010 when the former CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz realized that if they offered it for free, more customers would enter their shops and buy coffee while surfing the web. Most hotels used to charge guests for internet access as well until they realized how necessary it was for a business traveler to be able to sit in their hotel room and get work done from a connected laptop.

While some airlines are offering IFC for free, most have implemented a variety of business models that charge for access by the hour or the entire flight. Will airline executives eventually reach this point?

That’s difficult to answer because of the higher cost of modifying an airplane with antennas, modems, wireless access points, and other components that only work once connected to a satellite or air-to-ground network that must also be paid for. In this issue, we ask one of the newest low-cost airlines, Avelo, about this very issue and look at IFC adoption rates for this segment of the commercial airline industry.

Frank Wolfe is back with a look at the surge in demand for IFC on business jets and Kelsey Reichmann discovers whether or not the industry’s classic “through the blades” connectivity problem for helicopters has been resolved. Rachel Jewett, a writer for Avionics’ sister publication Via Satellite, analyzes next-generation IFC prospects for LEO satellites. We’re finally in the process of revamping our editorial advisory board, if you have any good suggestions, please let me know.

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