Tuesday, February 06, 2018

No more in airplane mode

It was an idea that was being nurtured by many carriers – and when the government decided to liberalise the rules and allow airlines to offer Wi-Fi services in the Indian airspace – both domestic and international carriers welcomed the move.

Days after the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recommended that both telephony and internet services be permitted on domestic flights, Ajay Singh, Chairman and Managing Director, SpiceJet, set the ball rolling when he told a television channel that SpiceJet would “absolutely and most definitely” look at having Wi-Fi on board its aircraft, and that it would try and put it on board “as soon as possible”.

The response was equally enthusiastic from other domestic carriers such as Vistara, which said: “We continually review our product offerings, and this will be reviewed as part of that process as well.”

International airlines such as Emirates, Singapore and Lufthansa, too, welcomed the move – these airlines offer Wi-Fi services on their other international networks.

Patrick Brannelly, Divisional Vice-President Customer Experience (IFEC), Emirates, said: “The TRAI recommendation to allow in-flight Wi-Fi and mobile services on flights within the Indian airspace is good news for our customers.”

The reasons for such a response are not difficult to find. A study by the consultancy Roland Berger on internet connectivity on airlines globally points out that internet access is one of the top three criteria people look for when choosing a flight, adding that 2-3 passengers are prepared to pay more to have internet access in the air.

Emirates’ data on Wi-Fi usage on board its flights indicates that laptop usage is at about 4 per cent and tablets at 4 per cent, but most of its passengers prefer to get connected through their smartphones . “Over 90 per cent of the connections are now through smartphones,” said Brannelley.

According to Emirates, last year, 10 million customers used Wi-Fi, which works out to about 1 in 5 customers. “The numbers are increasing month-on-month. In December 2017 alone, we had an unprecedented 950,000 connections from our customers, and we expect this number to exceed 1 million in January 2018,” said Brannelley.
06/02/18 Ashwini Phadnis and Tanya Thomas/Business Line