By Carl Esposito
For years, the concept of being connected to the Internet while flying seemed like a futuristic pipe dream. Today, that pipe dream has turned into an expectation and more importantly, a demand that is influencing passenger buying habits.
This new passenger demand for better in-flight Wi-Fi came to a head recently when American Airlines, unhappy with the quality and breadth of service from its current provider Gogo, said it was potentially losing passengers because of bad Wi-Fi. In fact, American used data from a 2014 Honeywell survey that showed exactly this, that in-flight Wi-Fi availability influences flight selection for 66 per cent of passengers and nearly one in four passengers have paid more for a flight with Wi-Fi and close to one in five switched from their preferred airline for better connectivity.
What was once a nice to have amenity has become a must-have service. And that boils down to this: if an airline isn’t offering “the best” in-flight connectivity possible, right now – it’s losing out on passengers and money.
So what do we mean when we say “the best” in-flight connectivity? It’s not just about providing the fastest speeds possible. We’ve reached an age where speed is an assumption of being connected. What makes “the best” in-flight connectivity is a combination of speed and reliability, no matter where you travel to, right now.
With all the options in the market, such as air-to-ground (that does not connect at all altitudes or over water), Ku-band satellites (that is slow and expensive), and other Ka-band solutions (that are not global) –consumers are dealing with slow and inconsistent connections and ‘global coverage’ that is made up of a patchwork of various networks rather than having one truly consistent service. I’m sure we’ve all experienced the frustration of Wi-Fi cutting off in the middle of an exciting movie or trying to download a large file and that’s what happens with inconsistency.
We’ve also heard about the promise of new networks technologies coming in the next few years that will provide the next generation of in-flight connectivity but in reality, that groundbreaking in-flight Wi-Fi service is becoming a reality in 2016.
Global Xpress network from Inmarsat and JetWave hardware from Honeywell have created the first reliable, global high-speed in-flight Wi-Fi service that is available today. It is 100 times faster and 20 times cheaper than existing options.
But why is this so important? It’s simple, speed without consistency is useless. I’m sure we can all remember a time and location of where our smartphone connections dropped off rendering us helpless. If we don’t want that experience on the ground, why would we want it in the air?
Beyond the passenger, airlines and operators are demanding a reliable and expansive high-speed network to make innovation possible. Think about it, the modern aircraft is producing about 20 terabytes of data an hour. To make the most of this data, you have to have a consistently strong global network.
Our goal is to move the aerospace industry into a new age of innovation. While better speeds are a part of the entire experience, a consistent, global offering will make a big difference in having the same connectivity experience and services in the air as you would on the ground.
That’s where GX Aviation has a leg-up on everybody else and that’s why global airlines like Lufthansa, Qatar, Singapore, Vietnam, Air China and more are going with GX Aviation. It’s about providing reliable, fast access everywhere so pilots, passengers and airlines can all enjoy the benefits of being connected.
-The writer is Vice President, Marketing & Product Management, Honeywell Aerospace