After many years of plotting and planning, Lufthansa rolled out its in-flight Internet service again today on a media flight from Frankfurt to New York. The airline’s excitement was palpable. For years they have been keeping the Boeing Connexion antennae on 69 planes, with the hope of reactivating them.
While there were costs to bear flying these systems around, the airline was confident the day they found a solution, they could relaunch the service faster than anyone else. Panasonic and T-Mobile were the partners that made it happen. On board the flight, as I write this, media are stress testing the service. Uploading video files and even testing out Skype when no airline staffer is watching. The speed is great even with this bandwidth hogging going on. Yes this blog is being posted live over t he North Atlantic. And its pretty amazing doing it.
Lufthansa sees this service as a key differentiator – business travelers across the North Atlantic will quite likely select the airline because of the ability to stay busy. This is clearly a threat to British Airways and Air France/KLM. Even if these airlines were to decide today to install similar equipment, it would take two years to catch up. Probably more.
Consequently Lufthansa has secured a key advantage just as business travel is making a comeback. And the happy accident occurs just as we see every business traveler now carry a smartphone. Consequently they are likely to see a vastly higher take up rate than before.
While the service will be charged at €19 per 24 hour period, the in-elasticity of demand for “always on” Internet means they are likely to make much better headway. Moreover, Panasonic is able to control bandwidth costs so that there is no “waste”. This is a critical issue compared to FlyNet version one.
Lufthansa made a relatively brave decision to keep the equipment on its planes – it was the only airline to do so. And today that decision means they will likely have 20 planes up and running by the end of January 2011. There are 11 planes ready to go now – and the service is free for December and January. So if you’re crossing the Atlantic in the next two months, give Lufthansa a try!