Selasa, 05 Agustus 2008

Airlines have hit fliers with a lot of extra charges these days. They charge for food, drinks and checking bags. JetBlue even said it would dispense with complimentary disposable pillows and start charging $7 for a take-home pillow-and-blanket set.

On Tuesday, however, Delta Airlines announced a service that few people should complain about paying for: Wi-Fi. While a number of other airlines have been trumpeting Internet availability, so far thats been a special service available only in business class and first class. Delta is the first airline to offer Wi-Fi in coach.

The cost will be $9.95 for a flight of three hours or less, or $12.95 for a longer flight. Service will be provided by Aircell, which is also working with American Airlines and Virgin America to provide wireless Internet access. The system, which will be available on all continental flights, will be rolled out by fall, Delta said.


Aircells Gogo system will allow Wi-Fi-enabled devices -- smartphones and PDAs such as Apples iPhone and iPod touch, as well as laptops -- to access the Internet and corporate virtual private networks, and perform SMS texting and instant messaging.

The deal signals Deltas commitment to "maximize the time our customers spend with us onboard by offering them even more productivity options," said Delta CEO Richard Anderson. "Our customers asked for in-flight connectivity, and were responding by rolling out the most extensive Wi-Fi network in the sky."

The boom in Wi-Fi in the air is the result of air-to-ground technology, according to Jack Blumenstein, president and CEO of 17-year-old Aircell. The technology has "made broadband connectivity in the cabin economically viable for the first time for commercial airlines," Blumenstein said. "The game has changed."


Aircells technology not only offers Wi-Fi throughout the cabin, but provides the infrastructure for advanced video, audio, television and other entertainment services.

Deltas announcement clearly shows where the market is heading, says Greg Sterling, principal analyst for Sterling Market Research. "Business travelers and consumers more broadly would appreciate access to the Internet on the plane. Its going to happen," he said.

But there are a few unanswered questions. For one thing, what about pornography? Will airlines offer a filtered view of the Internet to protect customers from unseemly content?

In addition, the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure last week approved a bill to permanently ban the use of cell phones in-flight. "With airline customer satisfaction at an all-time low, this is not the time to consider making airplane travel even more torturous," Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) said about his bill, which bears the cutesy-pie name of the "Halting Airplane Noise to Give Us Peace" Act (HANG UP).

With a laptop, Aircells Wi-Fi and a program such as Skype, Sterling wondered, could passengers get around the cell-phone ban?


So, will business travelers now lose the only respite they have had from the electronic leash? Writing at Ars Technica, John Timmer gave witness to that sentiment, saying, "As I have to spend most of my day connected anyway, Ive generally used flights to sort through back work and e-mails without the threat of being distracted by new work flooding in, or as an opportunity to catch up on reading some dead-tree material. As such, Im somewhat ambivalent about the chance to have airborne Wi-Fi."

Thats a real issue, Sterling agreed. "A lot of people secretly really value the absence of Internet access during that time, to read a book, sleep, be free of e-mail or just have time to think," he said. Still, he concluded, business travelers and consumers alike will probably opt to pay their $12.95 and have the option of Internet access.

Will other airlines follow suit and offer Wi-Fi to coach customers? "Theyll probably take a wait-and-see attitude," Sterling said. "If Deltas having success, youll see the others respond."


0 komentar: