The title and opening sentence for this MSN article (http://tr.im/inflightwifi) says:

In the Air, Wi-Fi Gets a Ho-Hum Reception

The good: Air travelers love Wi-Fi. The bad: They don’t like having to pay for it.

I would like to lend my professional opinion to this topic:


Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t this seem like common sense?

To understand what’s happening here, I think we have to look at this from each of the two points of view — 1) from the company’s perspective and 2) from the customer’s viewpoint.

First, let’s take a look at this idea from the airline’s perspective. People like wi-fi, and people have to fly. Our business isn’t doing so hot, so if we install wi-fi on our planes we can make some extra money by charging the passengers to use it.

On the surface, not a bad idea, really. All those things are true.

Unfortunately, even though they’re true — they don’t matter.

To understand why they don’t matter, let’s pretend I’m a common coach passenger. I’ve followed the bizarre rights of passage that accompany an airport terminal, allowed myself to be herded like a sullen, obedient American cow into this cramped metal tube and discovered my preordained place in Row 25, Seat B. I stumble on what we’ll call an “oversized” individual, already snoring against the window (and spilling onto what is clearly — half, at least — MY armrest) and an inconsolable child in Row 26, Seat B who is, apparently, for some reason, not happy to see me. I spent more than I wanted to for a plane ticket months ago and was just charged another $25 just to carry my own clothes onboard the same plane I’m on because my 4 oz. Pantene is clearly some kind of plastic explosive. My shoes still don’t feel quite right since I tied them in such a hurry trying to get out of the way of the angry TSA agent stacking gray plastic bins. I sit down on the dingy blue-ish cloth seats designed solely for my discomfort and check my email on my phone. By the time “it’s safe to use my electronic devices,” my 2 hour flight has dwindled to less than an hour and a half of usable surfing time. Should I spend another $12-15 paying for wi-fi? No, I’m pretty sure I can wait to check my email until the wheels touch the ground and my phone goes back on.

Slightly hyperbolic, sure, but probably only slightly (I didn’t even mention the rude agents behind the counters!).

It’s a fairly common organizational tale: introducing benefits that seemed like a good idea in the strategy meeting but customers don’t actually find value in. At least, not enough value to pay for.

I told my friend Joel about this article and at first he was excited: “They’re installing wi-fi on airplanes!?” Then immediately he was put out: “…but I’d have to pay for it?”

Because we are already connected everywhere else for no extra money through our cell phones, for most of us it just doesn’t make sense to pay for it on a flight.

The way I see it, offering FREE wi-fi could be a decent selling point for an airline, and a small competitive advantage (particularly now, when no one is doing it). It would be a small silver lining on what is normally a rather dreary and energy-consuming experience.

Here’s the question I really can’t figure out: when some of these airlines are experimenting with charging $1 for wi-fi (seriously, it’s in the article), why not just build another dollar into my ticket price on the front end and let me THINK it’s free?? You get your dollar AND I get something of value that actually adds to my perception of your brand!


One Reply to “Looking At The Wrong Side Of An Airplane”

  1. Jolene says:

    did you channel my travel experiences? hehe. i think this issue brings up issues we see with the whole “economy of google” and how we’ve become used to certain things being free, especially certain elements of technology.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.