Air Carriers move toward 100% Wi-Fi enabled

February 13, 2020 (PRLEAP.COM) Business News
Flying the friendly skies is becoming more and more an issue of being connected to the worldwide web. Whether a business traveler on a long domestic flight, or an energy-filled young person on the family vacation, airlines are learning and responding to the need for fast, reliable internet connection.

In fact, a recent survey revealed 74% of business travelers say Wi-Fi connection is "crucial" for their travel needs. Across the U.S. last year, 65% of air traveling customers who had in-flight Wi-Fi opportunities used that connection to work, play games and stay in contact with friends and family.

Those results were reported in an annual survey by Inmarsat Marketing Research, a company which has polled air travelers on the subject of internet connections for the past 4 years. The poll reinforces what most U.S. Air Carriers have known for some time because those same companies have scrambled to equip their planes with Wi-Fi capability.

But customers may place more importance on connectivity than the airlines even imagined. According to Inmarsat's study, two-thirds of air passengers said they are more likely to re-book with an airline that offers high quality Wi-Fi.

Toward that end, domestic and international airlines are now focused on equipping their planes with Wi-Fi and upping the speed and reliability of that service. Several U.S. fleets already have Wi-Fi on 100% of their flights, among them Jet Blue and Virgin American (at 100%) and Delta and Southwest Airlines (at 98% and 90% respectively).

Customers not only want the service; they also want it to respond with the same speed and reliability they have when sitting in their homes or offices on the ground. Just having the opportunity to connect is not enough. The service has to work quickly and well. That translates to airlines updating old connection speeds (9.8 Mbps) to faster speeds of 15 Mbps or more. That is good news for the 9 out of 10 business travelers who are wanting to use time in the air to get work done.

For industry leading carriers like Delta, Wi-Fi connectivity has become a key component of the "overall customer experience" which Delta views as the way to keep and grow business. Recently, Delta cited strong growth at its now 5-year old Seattle-Tacoma Hub being a result of creating a positive customer experience, and it noted that Delta now offers Wi-Fi on all flights from Seattle.

Of course, connection comes at a price. Some airlines (JetBlue) bury the cost of Wi-Fi connection in their ticket prices, but a larger majority price Wi-Fi connection as a separate service, charging from as little as $5 for 15 minutes of connection, or about $16 for all-day service. Some even price monthly or annual connection packages for the frequent traveler. Those could run $49 a month, and $599 for a year.

As airline companies race to get 100% connectivity at faster and faster speeds, that creates a practical need on the ground for their maintenance crews. Airliners cannot afford idle moments, so, maintaining the necessary satellite connection equipment has to happen quickly, between flights or during longer connection and layover times.

An Indiana company is one of the firms working to solve that problem, said Coy Stepro, general manager of Simpson Aerospace Services (SAS) at nearby Elizabeth, IN, across the Ohio River from Louisville. SAS recently received 5 orders for Wi-Fi Satellite maintenance stands from a major U.S. airline. Those stands give mechanics ready access to the various positions on planes where the Wi-Fi equipment is installed.

Stepro said special stands are needed because there aren't many pieces of existing equipment that can access so many different locations on both Wide Body and Narrow Body aircraft.

"Flexibility is the key. Mechanics must work quickly and safely on many different airplanes. There's really no time to dock a plane for what's usually a pretty quick fix. But the trick is you have to be able to access the right spot," he said. For Stepro and his still-young aircraft maintenance firm, the Wi-Fi demand is giving SAS new opportunities to grow. "We're a small company, but this is a good example of how a niche demand gives you an opportunity to build expertise and beat others to the market. We're excited about it."

For travelers 30,000 feet up, they won't know or care about how it all happens, only that their emails reach the persons intended, and that work gets done. Or, that Wi-Fi connection makes it possible to keep a teenager engaged on a long trip.

For more information
Contact Coy Stepro
7017 Highway 111 SE
Elizabeth, IN 47117

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