Airlines, Expansion, General Aviation

For in-flight Wi-Fi, airlines likely to charge 30% of fare

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  • Officials said the charges for net connection might range from Rs 500 to Rs 1,000 for thirty minutes to an hour as per international standards
  • Airlines have to pay service providers like Inmarsat and others a hefty sum to activate in-flight net connectivity

CHENNAI: Travellers could soon be able to post a selfie on social media while on board a plane, but may have to shell out at least 20-30% of the fare to avail of in-flight data connectivity.

Airlines are considering options to introduce the facility following a Trai order permitting in-flight voice and data connectivity+ . The move may help airlines add value to services for business class travellers on domestic and international routes. It may not be an option for low-cost carriers.

Officials said the charges for in-flight net connectivity would range from Rs 500 to Rs 1,000 for thirty minutes to an hour, according to international standards and taking into account the charges levied by service providers for slots on satellites. Airlines have to pay service providers like Inmarsat and others a hefty sum to activate inflight net connectivity.

With advance booking fares starting from Rs 1,200 to Rs 2,500 on short domestic routes, in-flight internet connectivity may be too expensive for passengers and airlines in the domestic sector.
An airline official said that Trai’s order permitting in-flight net connection would be an advantage for flights that traverse the peninsula on intercontinental routes. These flights do not have to switch off the Wi-Fi when in Indian airspace, he added.

“We are discussing the feasibility of having the facility on domestic flights. The cost and demand may have to be factored in before taking a decision,” said an official of a private airline. Airlines will have to install antennae on planes based on how they decide to receive and send the signals, either over mobile towers on the ground or over satellites.

Frequent travellers say that except for a handful of business travellers, there are no takers for in-flight internet even on international routes.

Air Passengers Association of India national president D Sudhakara Reddy said, “The in-flight data connectivity may be useful on longhaul flights. But I have hardly seen anyone use it or ask for it on international routes. It may be good during an emergency. Going by the international experience of passengers, it may not be viable for low-cost carriers.”

Some airlines allow passengers to use Wi-Fi free of charge for WhatsApp and other messenger services which may not need much bandwidth. Lufthansa, Emirates, British Airways and Delta are among the airlines that offer the service on international routes.

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