An initiative by

An initiative by

30 Oct 2011
Mirva Lempiainen

On staying connected

After dealing with major connection problems recently, I came to think about how important it is to have access to the Internet. Our lives are so wired these days that you need to get online for nearly everything: banking, school assignments, work projects, checking schedules for transportation, buying clothes and concert tickets and keeping in touch with people.

When you don’t have access to the virtual world, you feel helpless and disengaged. That’s why I think a quick wi-fi connection is very important, and nowhere more so than at airports. How else can you book your hotel in your destination, find out how to get there, send a last-minute work report to your boss, or inform your friends about your flight being delayed? Thankfully Helsinki Airport has realized this, and offers a free wi-fi connection to all passengers.

Unfortunately many other airports haven’t followed suit. Some have no internet available whatsoever. Others offer just a paid connection, or one that’s free just for the first 20 minutes. With prices of airline tickets rising all the time, I think this needs to be changed. The least these airports could do to show their appreciation for their clients is giving them access to wi-fi.

And while Helsinki Airport is doing a great job keeping people connected (at least most of the time, as Yuval reports here), Finnair still doesn’t have wi-fi anywhere onboard. When I traveled in business class to Delhi, it was kind of surreal seeing all the busy people reading newspapers instead of looking at their laptops, and I’m sure many would appreciate being able to work online while up in the air.

In the US some airlines are already offering free wi-fi, and in Europe Norwegian Air Shuttle does it too on some of its flights. If they can do it, why can’t Finnair? The technology is clearly there. If it’s too expensive, wi-fi could also be a service that’s included in a business class ticket, but costs extra for others. This would give people all the more reason to book a business class ticket next time!

What do you think – should airports and airplanes be equipped with free wi-fi, or do you enjoy being able to disconnect from the world for a while when you travel? How much extra would you be willing to pay for an internet connection onboard? What about at the airport?

 

 

29 comments
  • Gavinda Jayasinghe
    30 Oct 2011 at 7:20 am

    I think choice and option are the key words in answering the questions you presented.

    Airports and airplanes should certainly provide free wi-fi in the near future.

    However, the choice or the option of utilising this service is firmly placed in the hands of the passenger.

    If an individual does not wish to avail of the service, and to disconnect completely with the world for a while, then he/she should have the option of doing so.

    Yet, this would not affect those who wish to use the service. It should be considered a public property or service, where a small tax is levied in order to ensure proper maintenance and upkeep of the wi-fi system,similar to how we are taxed a small amount for the use of public amenities,roads,etc. The tax could be levied on the ticket price, or the country as a whole, to ensure that free wi-fi is no longer considered a want, and becomes a need.

    • Mirva Lempiainen
      30 Oct 2011 at 3:47 pm

      I’m all for a wi-fi tax if it means we’ll have guaranteed wi-fi connections onboard and in the airport! :)

  • 30 Oct 2011 at 7:46 am

    I do enjoy having wi-fi available en route, especially for 10-12 hour flights! I don’t mind paying for it. But in the airports, I want free wi-fi… it feels exhorbitant to pay $8.95 for “24 hours” of free wi-fi in one airport and then have to pay 4 EUR for the same thing at another airport less than 24 hours later!

    • Mirva Lempiainen
      30 Oct 2011 at 3:57 pm

      I know, I’m so annoyed at these “24-hour packages”. Who needs that when you’ll just be at the airport for a few hours? Unless it was a universal package that covers every airport in the world. :P

  • 30 Oct 2011 at 8:17 am

    I agree, in perfect world we would have free wifi in airplanes and airports but I don’t believe that is gonna happen soon, as the economy situation. :) Although some of the US planes have wifi, at least those that I have been, it has been paid only. This would make traveling lot more nicer.

  • 30 Oct 2011 at 9:09 am

    Free wifi on airports is a great service, and is still a differentiator. For me, at the least, wifi should be available. When I was traveling a lot for business, I didn’t mind paying for it. All part of the cost of me having to travel. The issue for airports is that the ticket revenue does not come in to their pockets. So I don’t really see the connection for increasing ticket prices and free airport wifi. What airports could do is offer a basic speed free wifi, and a super high speed wifi at a price. So if people want to teleconference, send big files or watch movies (in other words use a lot of bandwidth), they can do so more easily at a small cost.

    As for on board wifi, I would greatly appreciate that, and at a right price I would even pay for it. Especially on long flights.

  • Daniel
    30 Oct 2011 at 9:40 am

    I think (free) wifi is just a matter of time, not too concerned about that. I’m also ok to pay if needed, but I am annoyed though by the packages and prices they offer.

    As in lindsay reply, 24 hrs!, who the hell stays in airport 24 hours? Btw $8,95 is even cheap, i’ve seen much higher prices.

    An hour package is usually barely enough (for workmail), i can be waiting for 15 min for attachments to download (due to slowness or size), then i have to rush reading and editing in 30 min, and lastly hope it will send completely before timer ticks to 0.

    So yes, free wifi is the way to go, but if i have to pay, ok fine but then at least offer me sensible packages!

    Secondly, i think an airline can provide extra service here to their valued customer. If they know the airport they fly to/from only provides paid wifi, then why not present a free voucher for an x amount of time. Airline can buy in bulk minutes for much better price and pass on this bargain to their customer as a gesture of improving total travel experience.

    Btw during delays or cancelled flights, you often get vouchers too for calling home, thats so outdated as they sometimes are only valid from a phone booth too! Airline should be providing free wifi minutes at the airport just for this purpose already in my opinion.

  • 30 Oct 2011 at 11:42 am

    On a recent flight with Norwegian, I certainly appreciated the availability of WiFi, and I believe that it is just a matter of time until airborne connectivity will become an industry standard (both for data and mobile phone usage).

    As Gavinda already pointed out, choice or the option of utilizing the service rests in the hands of the airlines’ guests.

    Respect and courtesy will be paramount, however, as the risk of noise pollution should not be underestimated.

    When I travel on the ICE trains, I try to only use my mobile phone in the “public” areas in between the carriages as to not disturb my fellow passengers.

    Will future aircraft cabin designs perhaps incorporate “phone bubbles”?

    Along these lines, does anyone remember the Get Smart television series? “The Cone of Silence”: a concept well-ahead of its time!

    Sunday greetings from Germany,

    Holger

    • 30 Oct 2011 at 12:05 pm

      Great point about the ICE trains, Holger. I have used TGV trains in France regularly, and there the etiquette was that if you were making a phone call, you go outside the place where people sit, to entry halls of the train. When traveling on the Thalys to the Netherlands once, I was very disappointed in my fellow country men (and women) who were simply and rudely yelling in their phones in the regular passenger spaces. On the other hand, there are special silence cabins in Dutch trains.

      Having said that, the noise pollution of people using their mobile phones in public is severely annoying. I certainly don’t hope to see that coming into air travel in the future. I would certainly want some sort of compensation from the airline if I was seated close to someone who’s yelling in his phone the whole flight :) .

    • Mirva Lempiainen
      31 Oct 2011 at 10:01 am

      I don’t recall that show… I’ll see if I can find it on YouTube! And yes, one or two “phone bubbles” could be a way to eliminate noisy in-flight phone calls!

  • Rosemarie
    30 Oct 2011 at 4:18 pm

    All of you have come up with such worthwhile suggestions. Bravo! I am going to enjoy all the results of this when it is put to practice. The airports charge such high taxes almost double or more of the actual fare charged by the airline, time they gave the passengers back something for what they pay. The airlines should work to gether to make this a requirement at the airports.

  • 30 Oct 2011 at 9:51 pm

    Free wifi is the way to go.While i do understand there is a cost to this,a model worth exploring would be to raise sponsorships from organisations who would benefit from wifi users in an airport .This would help subsidise costs for the airport and could lead to business generation for these organisations….Cheers..love the fact that you ask us for our opinions too :) ..just makes us feel more wanted :)

    • Mirva Lempiainen
      31 Oct 2011 at 10:00 am

      Thanks for your comment, Kevin! And glad to hear you enjoy the questions. I’m enjoying reading everyone’s feedback and hearing great improvement suggestions! It’s all about team effort. :)

  • 31 Oct 2011 at 8:28 am

    Sponsorship Suggestion:

    What if Finnair (and the other partners of the oneworld alliance, for that matter) would cooperate with a preferred telecommunications operator?

    For instance, if Vodafone were the designated partner and all Vodafone customers would get free (or preferred rate) WiFi aboard the aircraft and in the airports, would this perhaps be reason enough for a customer to fly with a oneworld airline or select Vodafone as their mobile carrier?

    In the fiercely competitive airline and communications industries, all elements contribute to customer allegiance.

    Should this concept take off, it would not surprise if Deutsche Telekom would then become the Star Alliance partner.

    Carriers of choice!

    • Mirva Lempiainen
      31 Oct 2011 at 9:59 am

      That sounds like a working idea! Though most people probably wouldn’t want to switch to Vodafone just to get free internet for a short plane ride… but maybe they could offer a paid wi-fi for non-Vodafone customers.

  • Craig Nolan
    31 Oct 2011 at 9:02 am

    It should not only be free but accessible to all. I challenge you to find a low enough computer at the airport for someone to use in a wheelchair. Sorry if you have read other QH similar comments by myself, but maybe you have found a different experience to the others. Also if it is low enough for a wheelchair user, does it have a chair in front of it which is stuck to the ground? Another obstacle we face.

    • Mirva Lempiainen
      31 Oct 2011 at 9:57 am

      Good point, Craig. If you find a computer at an airport, it does tend to be at a standing height. I wonder why – maybe to discourage people from occupying the computer for too long? But true, this does prevent passengers with wheelchairs from using the computers altogether! That’s something to pay attention to in the next airport I visit…

  • Ana Silva O'Reilly
    31 Oct 2011 at 10:49 am

    Vodafone now give 25MB free roaming per day to their customers in the Vodafone countries, which is outstanding.

    I dont understand why virtually all US carriers have wifi on board but not a single european one. Airports should always be free, I think!

  • 31 Oct 2011 at 1:04 pm

    I was thinking about this post, and had something I ‘struggled’ with. What is your (our) definition of free? Is it without paying money, or absolutely free. What I mean by that is, that some free wifi providers want you to log in, giving them your details, which can later be used to aim marketing campaigns at you. Is that also free? I don’t really mind, since in many cases you can subsequently unsubscribe, but still, it’s not completely free. Or is it?

    How does the free wifi in Helsinki airport work? Can I just connect and go, or do I have to go to a special webpage first to ‘connect’?

    • Mirva Lempiainen
      02 Nov 2011 at 12:12 am

      In Helsinki you do have to go to a specific In Helsinki you do have to go to a separate page to connect, but it doesn’t ask you for any log-in information. You just have to click “Connect” so that you’ll agree with the terms and conditions. I know in some airports they make you give your personal details before getting access to the Internet, which seems a bit shady to me…

  • 01 Nov 2011 at 7:41 am

    Plenty of carriers in the US and Canada offer in-flight wifi, but it’s rarely free beyond special promotional periods. Alaska Air for example had a promo this summer where it was free to use your smartphone to connect, but there was a charge for laptop access.

    Most of the in-flight service is provided by a company called GoGoAir — you can get an idea of the affiliated airlines and their pricing here: http://www.gogoair.com/gogo/cms/airlines.do

    As for Norwegian, it was free during the launch period only. Not sure what (or if) they’re charging yet — their website only says it’s available.

    It would be great if airlines offered free wi-fi — I think it would be an excellent value-add and huge satisfier. More likely than not though, it will be a chargeable service.

    What I’d like to see is airlines incorporate wifi access into their rewards programs — vouchers for free wifi for frequent fliers, delayed flights, or as a courtesy from time-to-time. Now that would be a plus… :)

    • Mirva Lempiainen
      02 Nov 2011 at 12:09 am

      Thanks for the pricing link, Raymond! The monthly pass seems cheap (provided you fly a lot), but I wish they offered a “half a day” package or something, as most people don’t need a full 24 hours of access while flying somewhere…

  • Craig Nolan
    01 Nov 2011 at 8:55 am

    Hi again, just heard of some more interesting news out of Australia where Jet Star (subsidary of Qantas) as been taken to court because they have a two disabled seat policy. I have never heard of any airline having this sort of rule that they cannot have more than two people with a disability on a flight and I have even worked as a travel agent although it was some years ago. Do you know if Finnair or any other airlines has such a rule. This is impossible to detect by your travel agent as you cannot see any bookings outside your agency. So it would not be until you got to the airport that you would know. This tighs into the discussion about the web in that either airlines would have to specify what seats were set aside for the disabled on their website and so that you would be able to see if they were taken up by a diagram on their website (similar to choose your own seat). Or the worst alternative is that you will have to call the airlines to find out if the disabled quota has been filled, this would be a backward step due to waiting times on the phone and additional costs associated. I thought the aim was to make it as seemless as possible so the future lead to everything being booked over the internet.

  • Mirva Lempiainen
    02 Nov 2011 at 12:01 am

    Thanks for bringing up the issue, Craig! I have never heard of the “max two seats” policy. I’ll try to check what Finnair’s stand is in this regard!

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