23 January, 2018
CHENNAI: Travellers may soon be able to post a selfie, or photo of a meal, on social media while on board a flight but may have to shell out at least 20-30% of the fare if they opt to use in-flight data connectivity. Airlines are considering options to introduce the facility after Trai issued an order permitting in-flight voice and data connectivity.
The move may help airlines add value to their business class travellers on domestic and international routes but may not be an option for low-cost carriers.
Officials said the charges for net connection might range from Rs500 to Rs1000 for thirty minutes to an hour as per international standards and also taking into account the charges levied by service providers for slots on satellites. Airlines have to pay service providers like Inmarsat and others a hefty sum to activate in-flight net connectivity.
With advance booking fares starting from Rs1,200 to Rs2,500 on short domestic routes, in-flight internet connectivity may be too expensive for passengers and airlines in the domestic sector.
An airline official said that Trai’s order permitting in-flight net connection would be an advantage for flights that traverse the peninsula on intercontinental routes. These flights do not have to switch off the WiFi when in Indian airspace, he added.
“We are reviewing the order and are discussing the feasibility of having the facility on domestic flights. The cost and demand may have to be factored in before taking a decision,” said an official of a private airline. Airlines will have to install antennae on planes based on how they decide to receive and send the signals, either over mobile towers on the ground or over satellites.
Frequent travellers say that except for a handful of business travellers there are no takers for in-flight internet even on international routes. Air Passengers Association of India national president D Sudhakara Reddy said, “The in-flight data connectivity may be useful on long-haul flights. But I have hardly seen anyone use it or ask for it on international routes. It may be good in an emergency. Going by the international experience of passengers, it may not be viable for low-cost carriers.”
Some airlines allow passengers to use Wi-Fi free of charge for WhatsApp and other messenger services which may not need much bandwidth. Lufthansa, Emirates, British Airways and Delta are among the airlines that offer the service on international routes.