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Carrier WiFi

WiFi Set to Take Off

Airline carriers fighting to keep bums on seats would be well advised to offer cheap wireless LAN access to the inflight masses, according to the results of Unstrung’s July poll -- "WiFi in the Sky: Will It Fly?"

Over 80 percent of the 373 respondents claim the availability of wireless LAN connectivity could affect their decision to fly on a particular carrier.

Fourty-one percent of readers state that use of WiFi services would definitely tempt them in their choice of airline, while the same number argue that an 802.11 offering could help swing the vote so long as the price is competitive.

On the subject of moolah, it looks as if inflight wireless LAN services are more likely to become an added bonus for the traveler rather than a revenue generator in their own right. Only 18 percent of respondents are prepared to pay more than $10 for the service, while a plurality (41 percent) expect it to be a free perk. [Ed. note: And as satisfying as the inflight meal?]

Airlines are also warned against limiting the service to business-class propellerheads. More than half of respondents (54 percent) claim “it makes good business sense to install it throughout the plane.” Yes, Mr Branson, that does mean offering it to the lumpen proletariat.

To date, a glut of airline carriers have outlined plans to roll out onboard wireless LAN, but most companies are lagging behind Lufthansa’s early launch (see WLAN Takes to the Skies, Roger, Tango, WLAN, Boeing Connects ANA, and Roger, Tango, WLAN).

In fact, Unstrung’s readers are split on a likely timeframe for widespread availability of inflight WiFi. 2007 is the most popular forecast (45 percent), while a further 23 percent claim next year is more realistic.

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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