Airlines welcome WiFi go ahead but ask will consumers pay

Minister of Civil Aviation Suresh Prabhu said that he would work to ensure "earliest implementation".

May 02, 2018 05:03 pm | Updated 05:23 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Telecom Commission has approved a proposal for allowing mobile phone calls and internet services in domestic and international flights in India, with certain riders

Telecom Commission has approved a proposal for allowing mobile phone calls and internet services in domestic and international flights in India, with certain riders

Airlines have welcomed the decision of the telecom commission to allow WiFi on-board flights but wonder whether passengers will be willing to pay extra for the service.

"We welcome the move and will explore starting these services for consumers," SpiceJet's Ajay Singh told The Hindu .

The airline top boss has long expressed his eagerness to provide in-flight connectivity in order to enhance passenger’s experience and to boost ancillary revenue.

Tata-Singapore Airline joint venture Vistara was more cautious and said that providing the service to passengers on-board is contingent on whether they would be willing to pay extra for it.

"As long as consumers are willing to pay and help us provide this facility we will be interested in doing so," said the airline's Chief Commercial Officer Sanjiv Kapoor.

Minister of Civil Aviation Suresh Prabhu tweeted that he would work to ensure "earliest implementation".

In-flight connectivity providers such as SITA ONAIR say that for WiFi to be successful in a price-sensitive market like India, the pricing model that airlines opt for will be key. Some foreign carriers levy as much as $9 per flight for access to internet, something that may not work for India.

The different options available for airlines is to either offer the service for free and stand out among other airlines, provide the service for free to premium class passengers or those enrolled into the frequent flying programme, opt for a pay-per-use mode or get a third-party sponsorship in-return for advertisement.

Cost it unlikely to be a deterrent and airlines will explore a suitable business model, according to Neelu Khatri, aerospace leader- India, Honeywell Aerospace.

"Much like internet service providers on the ground, Airlines will set pricing models that are suitable for their passengers," Ms. Khatri said.

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