Free in-flight Wi-Fi? Not a bad idea, that…

Free in-flight Wi-Fi? Not a bad idea, that…

In the wake of Nok Air's decision to offer free Wi-Fi, Mark Elliott reiterates his call to the airline industry

In the wake of Nok Air's decision to offer free Wi-Fi, Mark Elliott reiterates his call to the airline industry

Worth smiling about: Nok Air will start offering free in-flight Wi-Fi in 2014
Worth smiling about: Nok Air will start offering free in-flight Wi-Fi in 2014

Back in 2012, I suggested in this column that forward-thinking airlines could start offering free Wi-Fi to passengers.

Taking the example of the hotel industry, which has moved from extortionate Wi-Fi charges to a largely free service, I argued that airlines should cut out that annoying, awkward middle phase and just make Wi-Fi free from the start.

But when I put this idea to a technical man from Airbus, he looked at me like I’d suggested using monkeys as pilots. ‘No chance!’ he chuckled. ‘It’s way too expensive – there’s no way airlines would offer it free!’

But it seems that someone was reading Editor’s Eye that day (or so I like to think). Nok Air last week revealed plans to offer in-flight Wi-Fi free-of-charge to all passengers. According to the company’s CEO, Patee Sarasin, the service would allow Nok to target a new generation of passengers who value connectivity higher than anything else.

At last, someone gets it! Wi-Fi connectivity has become more than a commodity; nowadays it’s almost considered a human right. Travellers can connect to the internet free-of-charge in bars, restaurants, airports, hotels, and pretty much anywhere. Then, suddenly they board an aircraft and either face hours with no connection, or Wi-Fi that’s expensive and tooth-achingly slow.

And while it may be a novelty now, the developments taking place in the in-flight connectivity sector are so rapid that within five years passengers will simply expect a high-speed service. And if they don’t pay for it anywhere else in the world, why should they have to fork out to an airline?

It’s been a long old slog to get hotels to finally realise that offering free Wi-Fi is game-changer – a key deciding factor in a customer’s booking decision. So I reiterate my call to airlines – follow Nok Air’s lead and start offering in-flight Wi-Fi free of charge – you might just find the benefits outweigh the costs.

And in the next edition, I will be exploring the idea of using monkeys as pilots.

Editor’s Eye will be back on 6 January 2014. Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Mark Elliott
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