SpiceJet may offer in-flight Wi-Fi services for a fee
In a bid to boost ancillary revenue and compete with full-service airlines, low-fare carrier SpiceJet Ltd may start offering in-flight Internet services to its passengers.
The paid service could allow passengers to stream live movies and cricket on platforms such as Hotstar and Netflix besides help retain business passengers who may drift towards full-service airlines who are planning to offer a similar service.
“We are seeing what all new things we can do to enhance passenger journey,” the chairman Ajay Singh said in an interview. “We should make the journey interesting and we should get ancillary revenue.”
Budget airlines offer services such as food and lounge access for an additional fee. In recent years, airlines have benefitted as liberal aviation regulators have allowed them to charge extra baggage fees, seat selection fee and Internet fee that have added to profits.
Internet services are currently barred on flights. Some airlines have started experimenting with streaming preloaded content onto passengers’ mobiles and laptops. Jet Airways and Vistara have it on some flights and this is likely to be offered by Air India as well.
The SpiceJet service will be paid, Singh said, and could be offered on its new planes.
“What we are looking at is full blown Internet on which you can browse the Internet. It will be on new planes. As far old planes are concerned, we are looking at it,” he said. “We will charge for it.”
SpiceJet which currently has 49 planes, has ordered nearly 205 next-generation Boeing 737 Max aircraft. Of these, 155 will be delivered between 2018 and 2024.
With airlines lobbying the aviation ministry, it has opened talks with other ministries to relax rules which obstruct such a service.
“The telecom ministry is currently looking into the matter,” said an aviation ministry official who did not want to be named.
One of the key reservations was the servers through which Internet traffic will be passing and how it will be kept under Indian jurisdiction for security oversight, the official said.
Wi-Fi equipment costs could be very steep. Besides a one time cost of Rs3 crore per plane, the airline will need to pay about Rs4 lakh per month, according to aviation consulting firm CAPA.
Globally though, the trend has shifted towards providing free Internet services and the focus is now on high speed and no lag.
More than 70 airlines worldwide now offer in-flight Wi-Fi, up from 59 last year, according to a 2017 report by Routehappy, a New York-based firm that assesses on-board airline amenities.
Low-fare American carrier JetBlue is the latest to provide in-flight Internet services to its passengers free of cost from January.