Europe’s airlines are racing to add Wi-Fi to their planes, eager to attract internet-hungry customers in a cut-throat shorthaul market and potentially add millions of revenue through entertainment, services and advertising.
Passengers on US airlines can already access Wi-Fi on 66% of miles flown, against a worldwide average of 24%, data shows from Routehappy, which rates flights worldwide on amenities such as seats and entertainment.
In Europe, adoption of a ground-to-air service such as that in the US, is harder due to the number of countries in the region, while satellite-based services have been too costly.
But with more satellites going up, bringing costs down, and airlines more aware of the money-making possibilities, price is no longer such a stumbling block, experts say.
Lufthansa, Air France-KLM, Ryanair and Vueling are some of the major European carriers looking at on-board Wi-Fi on short-haul flights, following low-cost carrier Norwegian, which offers it for free on 74 of its 76 Boeing 737s.
As well as potentially charging passengers to stream TV shows and music on their mobile devices during short flights, airlines can use onboard connectivity for restaurant bookings, shopping or hotel offers with advertisers.
“Nowhere else do you have a captive audience where you know everything about the people on a plane and what kind of advertisements you should have,” Robin Cole, vice-president of satellite Wi-Fi firm for airlines, Global Business Development, said.
Global Eagle is to trial a feepaying system on two Air France A320s.