September 17 2012 by Bryson Forbes
Ladies and Gentlemen this is your captain emailing. This maybe a little premature but Canadian air travellers will soon have access to email and the internet onboard flights after federal regulators recently signed off on a plan to begin offering the service north of the 49th parallel.
The service is currently available with some carriers in the U.S. and has been launched as a fee-based option with rates around $2.00 for 15 minutes or a $20 flat fee for access for the entire flight.
It will be interesting to see how Canadian travellers react to the service and also to the fee structure. The initial novelty of having airborne access will likely cause a decent adoption rate but I suspect paying $20 a flight for four and five hours of access to the internet will soon lose its appeal.
In an attempt to generate revenue airlines have unbundled the cost of almost everything over the last few years and paying incrementally for extra baggage, seat selection and snacks have become common place. I suspect though that internet access may act as a catalyst for airlines to see an opportunity to bundle back up some of these services.
Best Western, for example, in the hotel industry has gained huge competitive advantage by making life easier for clients by delivering consistent amenities, including high speed internet access, that are all included in the quoted room rate.
This has become a real competitive advantage and although some competitors have tried to follow suit, Best Western's first mover advantage has created an association to the brand for true customer focus around service excellence.
Companies in every industry talk about customer satisfaction and strive to improve the experience but seem to be content to have clients leave paying way more than they expected or budgeted to pay. It just doesn't seem to make sense. I can see travellers feeling upset about adding an additional $40 per return trip.
This is a story I will follow with great interest to see what happens as the service becomes available and ultimately loses its novelty and what airlines will do as it relates to fees. Today flying is really one of the last true places that you can escape your access to email and for the business traveller connectivity to the office.
How do you feel about accessing WiFi in the sky and the current fees to do so?