A USA Today article, “More Airlines Add Wi-FI but Fliers Balk at Paying,” discussess the fact that in-flight Wi-Fi has not taken off at the rate previously expected. To connect or not to connect – I see both sides of the issue.
For connecting – I am posting this blog from 33,000 ft. And in today’s fast-paced, instant answers, 24/7 business environment, who wouldn’t want to get ahead of the pending e-mail barrage while en route, rather than getting slammed once you arrive? Unless you have something urgently pending, do you really need to sit on a plane tapping away? Sure, why not, clear the decks…..
On the other hand, I understand why NOT to connect to Wi-Fi. It costs $10-$15 per flight, depending on the flight duration. Today’s connection cost me $9.95 for a two hour and 20 minute (actually less as we approach 10,000 ft.) “In-air experience,” as the GoGo web page says. Is it really worth it? For me, yes, although I also align myself with one person quoted in the article – in the air is a time to relax, watch something mindless on TV or video, read a book or snooze. Why pay for the privilege of connecting and “staying on-grid?” It all depends on your view of the service and what you have that needs your attention. Some of my favorite flights are 14 hours – time to read, watch a movie, eat, sleep – all beyond the reach of as the interviewee said ‘the annoying red blinking light of my Blackberry’. The USA Today article also pointed out that if it was free, take-up would obviously be much higher. Usage rates have increased from 4% to 7% although GoGo is still losing money.
Regardless of where you stand on this issue, In-flight Wi-Fi is a result of the innovation side of the Satcom business. The aerodynamic dome antenna on the room of the plane makes it possible. The little box and transmitter in the cabin make it possible. The company that processes my credit card and opens the port makes it possible. And it is a possibility that drive this business – the compulsion to answer the “What if,” questions. What else can we do with this pipe that provides connection anywhere? How else does this help travelers, whether military, businesses, explorers, or adventure-seekers? This thinking, this asking the question that prompts the answer, is the miracle of Satcom. It is the catalyst that fuels the engine, that drives us, the alluring possibility that there is something else that can be accomplished with these magical spacecraft that hover and fly around our giant blue earth.
So next time you have the opportunity to connect on a plane, freely debate the merits that is only functional. But take a second to celebrate the fact that it CAN be done. Enjoy the fact that if you want to connect, you can. That is the true miracle of this industry.