Wi-Fi Has Beat out IFE Onboard

By | December 5, 2010
American Airlines Gogo inflight wifi instructions
Image by arjunkamloops via Flickr

Last week, Delta, the most expansive installer of wi-fi enabled planes in the United States, announced it would add onboard wi-fi to 223 Regional Jets configured in a two class configuration. This includes Embraer 175, Bombardier CRJ700 and Bombardier CRJ900 planes. Installations will begin in January and will be complete by the end of next year.

This is actually the first reason why more jets will likely get Wi-FI over In-Flight Entertainment. The time it takes to install is minimal. For IFE, reconfiguration of the cabin is required, screens, etc. While IFE manufacturers have come up with some very good and speedy designs for installation, it still takes more time. And taking a plane out of service for an excessive amount of time is a revenue no-no.

As the Cranky Flier pointed out: “Delta has previously said that it wanted to have individual screens at each seat on flights over 4 hours in length. No regional jet is currently flying that far, so it’s not an issue. But now, Delta is saying that any flight longer than 2.5 hours will have First Class and wireless internet available. Anything less than 2.5 hours and the bet is off, but really, it doesn’t matter on the short flights. Delta realizes it’s not worth outfitting a bunch of 50-seaters with wifi because the flights are too short.

Southwest Airlines also chose wi-fi over IFE, with a $5 per flight charge. But, back to the overall issue…it comes down to this: We can bring our own video or audio content. But connectivity amounts to productivity, which will attract business travelers and distract people of all walks of life. And this is not limited to the domestic United States. For example, Lufthansa just launched Internet service after having spent time looking for a replacement for the discontinued Boeing Connexxion.

Disconnecting from the Internet for a few hours can certainly be relaxing, but most people do not want to be left to focus on the fact they are in a crowded metal tube at 30,000 feet. They’d rather think about anything else.

Finally, even if an airline wants an IFE offering, Gogo InFlight, the service provided by the majority of U.S. domestic carriers, looked to providing an in-flight video download service. So…you bring the screen, they’ll stream it to you…for a fee, of course.

All we really lack are power ports. With all these electronic devices we are encouraged to bring along, it would be good to have some extra juice.

What do you think?