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WiFi on planes is cool. Making me pay $12.95 for 2.5 hours of access is not.

Last night I boarded my flight from LA to Austin with dreams of burning down a dungeon boss with my guildies while sitting snuggly in seat 25A at 35,000 feet. Nirvana had arrived—I could finally play World of Warcraft (WoW) on a plane. No kids, no chores, no distractions. Hell, there’d even be people bringing me food and drinks so there would be no bio breaks either. Alas, my night of nerdly glee was not to be.

$12.95 for internet access? Seriously? LA to Austin is a two and a half hour flight. That’s about $6.50 an hour. My battery life while playing WoW will maybe get me an hour to an hour and twenty minutes. There’s no way I can justify that cost.

/cry

So, one nerd can’t play a nerd game on a plane. No big deal, right? Maybe not. At $12.95 the only people that can justify that cost are people that aren’t really going to pay it and that means business travellers with expense accounts. That’s fine and dandy if that’s your business model but the cash you make is probably not worth the ill will you receive from the nonbusiness fliers with laptops, iPhones, iPads, Androids, et al.

The Boeing 737 I was on can carry 148 passengers. Let’s say 20 of them spring for the $12.95. That’s $259. Not bad, not great. Even 30 passengers would only be $388.50. Everyone else that doesn’t get online but wants to is left really disappointed at the airline that just charged them $400 for the flight plus an additional $50 a bag. On second thought, they’re not disappointed. They’re angry and thinking, “Just one more way to nickel and dime me.” While business travelers have warm fuzzies everyone else has just one more reason to fly someone else.

This could go a different way. This could be an incredibly powerful customer experience that makes people love flying with you. “Internet at two bucks an hour!? SWEET!” Everyone can spare two bucks. Imagine 100 passengers online for two hours at two bucks per. That’s $400 and 100 happy customers that go out and tell all their friends how they got online in the stratosphere for only two dollars on your airplane. They’re in love with you. They want to fly you again because while paying $50 a bag sucks, $2 internet rocks.

As word gets out, every person with an internet capable device will pick your airline over the others when all else is equal. More customers, more love, more money.

Of course there are other pay options available, too. Pay-go is something many people are familiar with and it seems fair to people. Pay for bandwidth is another option. Want it fast? Gotta pay more. Anything would be better than $12.95.

Please, please, please airlines with internet rethink your fee schedule and turn my /cry into a /woot! And while you’re at it, put a plug next to my seat. Running heroics takes way to long and my meek little battery isn’t up to the task.

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