At any one time, there could be between 640,000-970,000 people in the air on a commercial airline. There can be about 6,382 flights in the air at all times. Advances in low cost air travel means that more and more people are taking to the skies. There was a point in time that your phone had to be switched off for the full duration of the flight. Thankfully, things have evolved since then that you can use electronic devices once on flight mode.
In 2008, the emergence of Wi-Fi on board commercial flights became a reality. This meant for the first time, you could stay connected to the outside world. You could keep up to date on your emails or latest social media posts. However, it hasn’t always been plain sailing for passengers. Wi-Fi on-board tended to be extremely slow or really unreliable. Some airlines offer miniscule amounts of data free of charge but try to upsell more data to you. Qatar Airways for example offer you 10mb for free. That’s better than nothing, but regardless if you are first class or economy you get the same speed and allowance. Then you are offered various amounts of data at extortionate rates per MB. Having access to Wi-Fi has almost become an essential part of living to a lot of people, similar to having access to running water.
Having a stand out Wi-Fi experience could mean the world to passengers and help an airline differentiate itself. Customers stick to one airline for the ability to get upgrades, change flights without penalty, etc. A good loyalty program for an airline is a sure fire way of survival in a tough industry. So, imagine then the more you travel with that airline, the better the Wi-Fi offering you receive in return. Or you could receive Wi-Fi offers on lower booked flights. The better your loyalty status the faster the speeds you receive or the more allowance you are given. Airlines could also partner with operators to align their loyalty schemes. Imagine moving from airport to airplane and almost having no impact on your connected experience.
First and business class long-haul travel is a lucrative business for airlines. As such, airlines are continuously trying to outdo each other in terms of the first class experience. They invest in the nicest seats, huge screens, even showers on-board. But a quick way to jump that little bit ahead of your competitors is to focus on the connectivity available for your high end passengers. In the fast paced world of business, this allows execs to be connected with the office whilst they travel in style. Giving them the comfort in knowing that they are getting a superior connected experience could ensure they always chose your airline.
The next level of in-flight experience is having the ability to access your Netflix, Amazon prime TV etc, so you can continue to watch your latest favourite series and not rely on the entertainment provided on-board. Again, this is another opportunity for airlines to team up with content providers to either give free data or have compelling offers available to customers. All this is now possible with advanced cloud supported policy management that help the satellite providers give their airline customers the functionality to stand out from their competitors. No longer will airlines be solely competing on price, but the connectivity on-board can be a strong differentiator to gain new loyal customers as well as provide an edge in the lucrative first and business class market.