Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Air India, Vistara, other major airlines welcome Telecom Commission’s nod for in-flight WiFi, voice services

New Delhi: Major airlines, including Air India and Vistara, today welcomed the Telecom Commission’s nod for use of WiFi and voice services in-flight, with Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu saying he will ensure “earliest implementation” of the proposal. When the decision comes into effect roughly in three to four months time, passengers can use mobile phones for both voice and data services in the Indian airspace in domestic and International flights. “We welcome the decision as it will mean more convenience to air travellers. We will study the recommendations in details and in due course determine the economics of offering on domestic and international route,” Vistara, which is gearing up for international operations, said in a statement, welcoming the development.

The major take away from the decision is access to net connectivity and Internet access which can be provided once the aircraft is ready for take-off. Prabhu said that he will ensure “earliest implementation” of the proposal as the government remains committed to improving services of air passengers and making their travel delightful and hassle-free. “Providing passenger amenities have been the endeavour of the Narendra Modi government. We are constantly upgrading our services. This (decision) will go a long way in making sure people will be using the flying time more productively and efficiently,” the Civil Aviation minister said in a video message from South Africa.

“This move will also help so many hours not being wasted which would be fruitfully and gainfully,” he added, describing the move as “exciting times ahead in Indian skies”. Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha wrote on Twitter, “Approval for Voice & Data services in Indian airspace has been granted by the @TRAI. We are a step closer for fliers to access & use mobile services in-flight. Enhancing passenger experience in the aviation ecosystem has always been at the forefront for @MoCA_GoI. @DoT_India.” According to Amber Dubey, partner and India head of aerospace and defence at global consultancy KPMG, passengers may not be averse to paying Rs 200-300 for a 2-3 hour flight and it could be more for international flights.

“Premium and corporate passengers may get the service free,” he told PTI. Dubey said in 12-24 months, the WiFi service may become completely free like it is in hotels. For the airlines, it may provide alternate revenue opportunity to airlines through advertisements and fee from online transactions.

“Overall, it’s a great move albeit a bit late,” he said. The Telecom Commission’s approval today is a win-win situation both for the airline and the travellers in general and we welcome it, said an Air India spokesperson, stating that they are analysing the announcement made in detail before commenting further on the issue.
01/05/18 PTI/Financial Express