Lonely Planet Writer

European airlines race to deliver onboard Wi-Fi

Europe's airlines have identified onboard Wi-Fi as the next major attraction for customers in the competitive short haul market. Passengers on US airlines currently have a 66% chance of accessing Wi-Fi compared to only 24% for the rest of the world.

Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary is looking to add wi-fi to his aircraft without adding costs to fare prices
Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary is looking to add Wi-Fi on board his aircraft without adding costs to fare prices. Image by Niall Carson/PA Wire

This area can potentially deliver millions of euro annually to airlines but Europe’s faces a harder task in delivering Wi-Fi because of the numbers of different countries involved. On top of that satellite-based services are too costly to hook up for short flights.

However, RTE News reports that with more satellites being sent into space, costs are coming down, allowing airlines to open up to money-making possibilities as price is not now a stumbling block.

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary has already signalled that his company are looking at the possibility of bringing Wi-Fi on board its planes without adding cost to the price of tickets.,

Lufthansa, Air France-KLM and Vueling are among others of the European carriers examining the best way to introduce such facilities on short-haul flights. Already low-cost carrier Norwegian is able to offer it to passengers for free on 74 of its 76 Boeing 737s.

As well as potentially charging passengers to stream TV shows and music on their mobile devices during flights of a couple of hours or less, airlines can use on-board connectivity to offer restaurant bookings, shopping or hotel offers in conjunction with advertisers and partners.

Ryanair has begun negotiations with mobile phone companies over charges, as well as talking to technical firms about the cost of fitting the lightest possible aerials.

Routehappy data research manager, Jason Rabinowitz, said that in the United States low-cost carriers like JetBlue were now offering such services for free. That, in turn, was putting pressure on mainline carriers to do the same.

Britain Inmarsat's vice president for airline market development, Jeff Sare, said virtually every airline was now asking about Wi-Fi.