Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary is making a costly mistake by ruling out in-flight Wi-Fi, argues iPass’ Patricia Hume.
It’s just under a year since the United Nations declared that internet access should be a human right, highlighting the ever-increasing role that connectivity plays in all our lives.
Today, even airline passengers now expect uninterrupted in-flight Wi-Fi, something which has only started to be possible in recent years. In fact, research by Gogo found that millennials are starting to expect the same levels of connectivity in the air as they do on the ground, and 48% of respondents said they would choose another airline if Wi-Fi was not available on their chosen flight.
This marks a serious shift in passenger expectations, which is why it was so surprising that the CEO of Ryanair recently said that the company had no plans to offer Wi-Fi to its customers.
Although airlines can avoid costly plane upgrades in the short term, they will surely end up losing far more in the long run; consumers are increasingly demanding Wi-Fi, whether they are on planes, trains, in cars or even on the Underground.
London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, recently announced plans to ensure the whole of the London Underground is connected – beyond the in-station Wi-Fi we have today – so the customer expectation of Wi-Fi access will only increase as connectivity ‘not-spots’ decrease and the times when they aren’t able to connect become ever rarer.
Likewise, in-flight connectivity may be a valuable additional revenue stream for budget airlines, which have adopted a model of selling extra services so successfully in the past.
Fortunately Ryanair is in something of a minority when it comes to choosing not to offer in-flight connectivity. In the last few weeks, Icelandair announced transatlantic in-flight connectivity from 2018, and airlines including Qatar and Air Canada have also announced that they will be offering new or enhanced connectivity on their planes.
It is not just long-haul flights either; it won’t be long until shorter European trips, and even domestic flights, also offer Wi-Fi, and in some cases airlines already are. Clearly there is an appetite for this service, and the vast majority of airlines are choosing to satisfy this need.
Travelers expect to be connected at every point in their journey, whether in-flight, at the airport, at their hotel, and even in the taxi that took them there.
The good news is that over the next 12 months, more and more travelers will be able to stay connected wherever they are, even at 30,000 feet.
Airlines that choose not to offer in-flight Wi-Fi cut themselves off from a valuable revenue stream and risk having customers choose a competitor’s service – so you can count on the fact that Wi-Fi won’t stay grounded for long.
Patricia Hume is chief commercial officer at Wi-Fi network aggregator iPass