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United Airlines Set To Offer Free WiFi

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According to aviation site, View From The Wing, the subject of connectivity was brought up during a recent financial results meeting with shareholders. At the meeting, CEO of United Scott Kirby discussed how they were investing in internet technology onboard the fleet to bring them in line with rivals Delta and American.

“… to get the system to a high enough level of reliability and bandwidth that we can make WiFi free for our customers.” Spoke Scott Kirby at the conference.

Currently United charges passengers to use the WiFi onboard, although their coverage is quite good as part of their international fleet (Specifically Airbus 319, Airbus 320, select Boeing 757-200, select 757-300, 767-300ER, 767-400ER, 777-200, 777-200ER, 777-300ER, 787-8, 787-9 and 787-10).

United

It costs passengers $49 per flight, but video streaming services are unavailable. All types of video content from Netflix to Hulu to Youtube is not allowed onboard the aircraft, either for bandwidth or contract reasons. If a passenger flies a lot, they can actually buy a year’s subscription for world-wide flights for the handsome sum of $689 USD.

United
The complete United internet package. Photo: United
 

Some airlines in the US currently offer free WiFi onboard their aircraft, with others offering pay as you go or limited services.

  • JetBlue offers free WiFi to all passengers on board their aircraft
  • Southwest, Delta, and Alaska have free inflight messaging
  • Delta and American currently charge for internet onboard but are rumored to be able to give it away for free

Why would they give it away for free?

A question that some commentators have asked is, why would an airline give internet away for free if they can charge for it?

Like text messages with mobile phones, at first companies charged for every usage. But just like text messages, the internet doesn’t really have any fixed costs once it is installed. For an airline to have the infrastructure to offer fast free internet to all customers but charge for it, sure they will make a dime, but they will eventually lose customers to rivals who offer it for free.

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