Print 16 comment(s) - last by Zoomer.. on Jun 29 at 10:07 AM

In-flight Internet service not seeing any takers

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Boeing may be looking to sell or even close its Connexion In-Flight Internet service unit due to poor sales. Boeing launched Connexion in April of 2000 on the hopes that US-based carriers would latch on to the service and offer it to passengers. Unfortunately for Connexion, that didn’t happen and the service is currently only available to some overseas passengers.

One of the biggest hurdles facing the service is the immense implementation cost associated with it for the airlines. It costs airline around $500,000 per aircraft to outfit each plane with the necessary equipment required to enable the service and struggling airlines just don’t currently have the resources available to afford it.

Another hurdle airlines are facing is the lukewarm response passengers have with the cost of internet access at 30,000ft. In-flight Internet access currently costs passengers anywhere from $10 to $27 per flight depending on the flight length for users to log-on.  No decision from Boeing is imminent; however, flyers seem to be drawn to cheaper alternatives. JetBlue, which recently won an auction from the FCC for in-flight airwaves, may launch a similar service in the future which doesn’t rely on the Boeing technology.

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Wish my Laptop batteries would last.
By dice1111 on 6/27/2006 11:38:20 AM , Rating: 2
Since laptops can't even be plugged in to recharge on a plane, the longest anyone is going to be able to use the serive is 2 hours with out an extra battery. Even cellphones and the new UMPC's can't stay on much longer.

I think airlines should concentrate on providing juice to our toys then more people may use the service. 2 hours of use on a 14 hour ocenanic flight is not worth it for me.

RE: Wish my Laptop batteries would last.
By Desslok on 6/27/2006 12:17:43 PM , Rating: 2
Two hours???? Where are you getting that number from?

RE: Wish my Laptop batteries would last.
By rrsurfer1 on 6/27/2006 12:23:58 PM , Rating: 2
That is about the average for high usage. Some get more, a few get less, but generally if your watching a DVD or something that's what you get.

RE: Wish my Laptop batteries would last.
By matthewfoley on 6/27/2006 12:31:07 PM , Rating: 2
There are planes that you can plug your laptop into.

RE: Wish my Laptop batteries would last.
By dice1111 on 6/27/2006 6:02:16 PM , Rating: 2
Really? I fly quite a bit and I have never seen such a feature. I know there was this USB unit reported here at Daily tech some time ago that you plugged in to the audio headset outlet, but I don't believe it's very praticle.

Please tell me the airline that supplied the outlet for your laptop. I'm very interested if one exists. I would be quite surprised.

RE: Wish my Laptop batteries would last.
By dice1111 on 6/27/2006 6:15:05 PM , Rating: 2
Looking into this there are a few, but only on very select planes and in those plane they might only be on select seats. You still need the appropriate adapter. The average international 747 does not have power.

Here's an interested site with comparison charts of airlines with outlets. You'll find barely any planes have them.

Since you usually cannot pick your plane you want to fly on to travel to your specific destination, my original statement still holds merit as it stands.

By kkwst2 on 6/27/2006 9:44:27 PM , Rating: 2
Yup, the link posted by dice1111 confirms my memory that Airbus planes have them. Looks like you're out of luck on other US Air planes. Guess I mostly fly Airbus...not on purpose before, but now it will be if I can help it.

It says only some seats so maybe I've just gotten lucky.

By kkwst2 on 6/27/2006 9:36:22 PM , Rating: 2
Well, it seems to me that most of the Airbus planes have them. Maybe because they're relatively new? I fly US Air a lot, and they have a lot of Airbus planes.

I've got a Juice adapter for my T42 and always fly coach. I usually have a charger. It took me a couple flights to realize where it was. It's usually under a flap on the arm rest opposite the headphone port and isn't obvious. And it is a funny adapter. It's hidden under the car adapter on my Juice.

RE: Wish my Laptop batteries would last.
By Keeir on 6/28/2006 2:18:34 AM , Rating: 2
Be careful what you wish for...

Power on airplanes has to come from somewhere. On many airplanes this power is generated by a jet fuel run APU. Not really the most efficient or low cost means of generating power, but then lifting the required batteries is not the ideal either. The additional fuel (to generate the power) and all the wiring and equipment to get the power to each seat will add wieght (and thus require more fuel to fly the same distance). On top of that, if a significant number of passengers started to bring 8-10 lbs of laptops & accessories for personal entertainment only then this would also pose a reduction in the amount of cargo the plane could safely carry (also upping the price).

If many people started bringing DTR notebooks to plug into airplane power sources during flights, airplane ticket prices will have to rise to account for the added expense....

By Zoomer on 6/29/2006 10:00:55 AM , Rating: 2
Your argument is, frankly, not very sound. These outlets have a 75w limit. Furthermore, for the A340-500, each Rolls-Royce Trent 556 turbofan produces 236kN (53,000lb) of thrust. Each plane has four engines.

Operating emptyweight of the A340-500 170,400kg (375,665lb); max takeoff 365,000kg (804,675lb). Your ipod (>1KG) and DTR (>10KG) is really nothing compared to the weight of the empty plane - 170 tons. A unfavourable headwind of a few mph would likely result in the plane burning more fuel than a few lousy laptops.

RE: Wish my Laptop batteries would last.
By hrrmph on 6/27/2006 12:23:09 PM , Rating: 2
Yup, its worth it. I like it and used it on a long haul flight in business class. Was very easy to use and made the flight more pleasant.

But we need to see the airlines install the power outlets. I don't think ppl would hesitate so much if they knew they had the power to use it the whole flight.

As it is now, you are almost guaranteed that $10 won't be enough because your connection will expire before your battery does. But the $27 is a waste because few batteries can last even half the trip.

B-class is dead in the States, save for innovators like Jet Blue. There just isn't space to move around on most US flights and do much useful. But ticket prices are cheap and flights are short, so its not really the market for something like this.

If the airline market can sell more spaciousness then this stuff would have a better chance. But many attampts at doing that have failed. Most people on short-haul (including me) want cheap.

By Zoomer on 6/29/2006 10:07:01 AM , Rating: 2
Besides, there's a fringe benefit of having net access - remember video or IP (video streaming)?

I wonder how much one would pay to watch tv live on the plane.

Before you blow that off, I wonder how much one would pay to watch the world cup live on board.

These two pages might be helpful. I have no doubt that there are others out there who are doing the same.

Besides, any airline that can't afford $500k gives me the shudders. Planes cost a lot more.

What Could Be Wrong
By TomZ on 6/27/2006 10:19:25 AM , Rating: 2
What could be wrong with this service? Did Boeing even consider costs - a half-million (could that be right?!?) per plane makes it a hard sell to airlines, and pricing from $10-27 makes it a hard sell to consumers.

RE: What Could Be Wrong
By Keeir on 6/27/2006 11:08:59 AM , Rating: 2
Let me point out a few things

the majority of flights currently offering Connexion service are 8+ hours in length (across either ocean). The price generally works out to be between 1.5-2 dollars an hour for high speed internet service on an airplane.

the majority of flights have a ticket price in excess of 1,000 dollars. In that context, 10-27 doesn't seem a terrible addition. (Some of the problem is that the people who -need- internet access during a trans-ocean flight are often people who don't want the access...)

Considering that the planes being altered are 747s, 777s, and 767s which have list prices well in excess of 100 million, a major retrofit to install a -new- antenna to carry the high speed internet, 500,000 for all design, fabrication, installation, and testing is not out of the range of possibilities (expecially considering there are less than 3,000 passenger 747,767, and 777)

RE: What Could Be Wrong
By Desslok on 6/27/2006 12:18:57 PM , Rating: 2
QFT. I would gladly pay that on my next flight to New Zealand or Hong Kong. Sure beats watching Batman Returns for the 20th time.

Sounds reasonable
By Jeff7181 on 6/27/2006 1:09:39 PM , Rating: 2
I'd pay $10 for 2 hours of high speed internet access on a flight from Michigan to Florida.

"I want people to see my movies in the best formats possible. For [Paramount] to deny people who have Blu-ray sucks!" -- Movie Director Michael Bay
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