Most of us are now used to the drill of boarding a flight and switching our smartphones and laptops to the airplane mode during take off after the air steward/ess prompts (a couple of times). At least that’s what happens in our domestic flights. However, you may not have to do that soon. Also Read - Internet down: Zomato, Paytm, Disney+ Hotstar, Amazon, Myntra, many other global services suffered massive outage
As reported by The Hindu Business Line, some domestic airline carriers have shared affirmative responses to the long-ongoing plea to allow in-flight Wi-Fi. Reportedly, Ajay Singh, Chairman and Managing Director, SpiceJet recently told a television channel that SpiceJet would “absolutely and most definitely” look at having Wi-Fi on board its aircraft, and that it would try to bring it on board “as soon as possible”. Also Read - Airtel 5G Mumbai trials show download speeds of 1.2Gbps, upload at 850Mbps
Apparently, Vistara too confirmed similar plans, which was reported saying that, “We continually review our product offerings, and this will be reviewed as part of that process as well.” Also Read - Jio maintains lead in 4G download speed, Vi in upload in May: TRAI
Presently, the use of mobile phones and internet are prohibited on commercial flights in the Indian airspace. Airlines which already offer Wi-Fi for passengers have to switch off the facility when they enter Indian airspace.
With TRAI’s decision in favor of in-flight Wi-Fi, international airlines are also hoping to cash in on the latent demand for Wi-Fi connectivity which is being seen among Indians.
“Yes, Indian travellers are increasingly looking to stay connected during their travel – for work or leisure,” a Singapore Airlines spokesperson was quoted as saying.
The reason behind the excitement around Wi-Fi in the Indian airspace is two folds. From a consumer’s perspective, a study by the consultancy Roland Berger on internet connectivity on airlines globally points out that internet access is one of the top three criteria people look for when choosing a flight, adding that 2-3 passengers are prepared to pay more to have internet access in the air. Another Global Passenger survey conducted by IATA in 2015 shows that, out of 7,300 passengers, 36 percent said they were willing to pay for internet access in-flight.
The reason being that hundreds of people travel for work everyday, and with the absence of any internet connectivity they find themselves at a loss of productivity.
The second aspect to this is an airline’s perspective. Providing Wi-Fi on board is a good source of ancillary revenue for the airline industry, and this is one segment that airlines are increasingly looking at to add to their profits. As The Hindu Business Line reports, Ajay Singh says that Wi-Fi should add significantly to ancillary revenues for SpiceJet (which are a little over 16 per cent currently). The airline hopes to increase this to about 20 per cent in the next year.
Finally, while the recommendation to allow the service is certainly positive, what still remains uncertain is the pricing of the services. Reportedly, Airlines such as Singapore and Lufthansa maintain that their Wi-Fi services have been very well received by both business and leisure flyers in India, however, there is no clarity on the pricing since there is no final word on when this service will be available.