Iconic and long-standing UK airline operator British Airways (BA) will soon begin testing in-flight WiFi and mobile use on its planes. That’s right, soon, like our US and Canadian cousins Brits will be able to complain about the slow speeds and expensive prices of getting online while flying through the air at 30,000 feet.
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Official word from a BA spokesman said that it’s “early days” and “we are just investigating the potential of a connectivity trial at the moment.” That sounds pretty non-committal. In fact, it got worse, as the spokesman said that “no firm decisions” about even running a trial had been made yet, let alone actually offering a commercial service.
However, according to the Airline Passengers Experience Association’s (APEX) blog, the London-based carrier will start a one-year trial using a Panasonic KU-band satellite supplier for WiFi needs and an airborne mobile network provided by AeroMobile for texting, but not voice calls at an unspecified time this year.
The information was given to APEX by Richard Cruze, inflight entertainment and technology manager at BA, who also said that the tests will take place on Boeing 747 planes and will be carried out on across their varying flight paths, rather than only on specific routes, say, between New York and London.
There’s no word on how much it could cost passengers as yet, and if it’s anything like the US models could work out quite pricey indeed, but still, it’s WiFi while you’re flying.
“We’ll be looking at testing different price points and every quarter we’ll play around with the prices to see what is the optimum price for take-up,” Cruze said.
Across the Atlantic, carriers like American Airlines have been offering on-board WiFi for some time now, while in the UK we’re left lagging behind. Charges for a single domestic trip starting at $14 (+tax) for a day pass and from $12 for two hours on an international flight. However, take up is relatively low and, according to Cruze, there’s always some fears around WiFi interference issues, which leads to “nervousness”.
Within Europe some carriers, such as KLM and Norwegian, are already rolling out WiFi in some form or another. While KLM is only just ramping up its efforts, beginning with just one plane, Norwegian said in January that 51 of its aircraft already offered WiFi, with plans to roll it out to the whole fleet by March this year.
So please BA, stop sitting on the fence and at the very least commit to a trial run of the tech, at least find out if European passengers want or will use it before writing it off altogether, the future of my jet-setting emails depends on it.
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