I just got my first taste of Internet access on an airplane, and I’m already addicted. I was flying from Dallas to Tampa on American Airlines when I happen to notice a flyer I’d never seen before in the seat back pocket in front of me. The flyer advertised a new service on American Airlines: in-flight Internet access.
While I didn’t have an urgent business need to get online, I simply had to try it out. A few clicks later, I was on the Net. Here are five reasons why I believe this technology is a "game changer" for business travelers:
1. Two more hours of productivity – Priceless
When I signed up for this service, I really just wanted to try it out. I was not expecting to get an extra two hours of productivity that day. As soon as I was connected, my inbox flooded with emails, I started chatting with coworkers through our corporate instant messaging, and I even placed a VoIP (voice over IP) phone call (although technically they don’t want you to do that). I got some real work done at 30,000ft between Dallas and Tampa, and the flight went by a lot faster than usual.
2. The price was right
It cost me right around $10 to get connected during that flight. If the price point were much higher, I might have hesitated; but at $10 it was pretty much a "no brainer". I compare it to driving on a toll road. Yes, it costs a little extra, but it’s worth it.
3. It was easy to setup
The third-party company that American Airlines has apparently contracted with to provide in-flight Internet service is called Gogo (www.gogoinflight.com). I have to admit that they’ve done a nice job keeping it simple. Their entire setup process, including taking my credit card, took only a couple of minutes. The steps were easy to follow and extremely straight-forward. And from now on the system remembers my account and payment information, making even faster to get online during my next flight. As an added bonus, it tracks all of my account history so that I can monitor my usage over time.
4. The bandwidth was surprisingly good
To be honest, I was expecting to have a mediocre Internet experience. After all, I was on a plane! But much to my surprise, the bandwidth was quite good and consistent (I wasn’t dropped once). While I didn’t spend of lot time "surfing" the Net, I testing enough websites to get a sense of the bandwidth, and it was very usable. To be fair, since the service is so new, I may have been the only Internet user on that flight. We will probably see some degradation over time as more people sign on to the service and compete for the finite bandwidth.
5. Tailored for business travelers
This service is clearly targeting business travelers, not tourists. While we will inevitably see the occasional web surfer access the service, I believe that it will predominantly be used by business people who have a legitimate need to stay connected and get work done during a flight. It’s the same reason why business travelers are willing to pay for WiFi access at the airport or subscribe to mobile broadband plans for their PC.
So I give this new service a "five star" rating and look forward to logging on during my next flight.