Go-Go or No-Go? Who Pays for In-Flight WiFi?

Imagine this…a five hour flight from Minneapolis to San Francisco with in-flight wi-fi. What does it mean for your employee? Five hours of Angry Birds and Candy Crush? Hopefully it means five solid hours of productivity. Five hours to answer emails, and accomplish the things you just can’t get done in-between meetings and phone calls.

The question that lingers is, who should pay for in-flight wi-fi? The employee or the employer? Let’s back up a minute and learn a little bit more about in-flight wi-fi, the costs, the typical users, and the big players.

GoGo is the company who brought wi-fi to the sky in 2000. The idea for in-flight internet was originally intended for private plans, executives jetting off to shareholder meetings. It was intended for the elite… but it wasn’t long before they made the service available to the major airlines and to the masses.

Today, only about 7% of all airline passengers use in-flight wi-fi powered by GoGo. The speeds are painfully slow, and often speeds of 3-12 mbps are shared amongst all of the passengers connecting at once. Translation: Super slow.

There are other players in the space; Row 44, Panasonic, ViaSat. These players are pushing for faster speeds, and making wi-fi available in more airlines and more flights than ever before. Learn more about the crazy economics of in-flight wi-fi in this video.

 Here’s a horror story.
On a flight from London to Hong Kong, Jeremy Gutsch CEO of Trend Hunter, bought the $29 in-flight wi-fi package. He slept for most of the flight, but he was able to read and send a few emails, browse a few web pages, and upload a PowerPoint to his team. The final bill? $1171.46 – ouch!

Jeremy had bought the smallest package available, 30mb. What he missed was the fine print about cost for going over the 30mb. Whoops. Read the full story here.

The Good News

Airlines have identified wi-fi capabilities as a differentiator in their business and are adapting accordingly. Airlines like Dubai’s Emrates and US-based JetBlue are offering wi-fi gratis to their passengers. Just last year, Emirates made a $20M investments in equipping their planes with wi-fi. The speeds are nothing to turn your nose up at, either. Read more about the free wi-fi movement here.

A final note

While we’d like to see free wi-fi available for passengers on all major airlines, it doesn’t seem like that is on the immediate horizon. From a telecom expense management and cost control standpoint, it is our recommendation to create parameters for your employee’s use of in-flight wi-fi. The policy can be a quick clause as part of your overall wireless policy, outlining the usage and purchasing of in-flight wi-fi, and who will be responsible for overages.

Interested in more? Connect with us, we can help you navigate the wireless policy creation process.