Brands change the context of things, and airlines are finding a new context for flying: offering a winged hotspot at 35,000 feet. The LA Times reports that airlines may earn $1.5 billion from onboard Wi-Fi by 2015.
About 45% of the nation’s commercial air fleet is equipped with in-flight wireless Internet, with several airlines, including Virgin America and AirTran, offering the service fleetwide, according to In-Stat.
The nation’s airlines collected about $155 million in 2011 from charges to use onboard Internet and are expected to collect $225 million this year, said Amy Cravens, a senior analyst for In-Stat.
Coming soon: Hotspot Airlines
Brands that help us be more productive and proactive have signal advantages over brands fashioned as stylized sales stimulants. In planning a trip we’ll be searching Kayak and the rest for Wi-Fi flights. We’re looking for Hotspot Airlines, no matter what the name and livery say on the side of the plane. And not just any Wi-Fi mind you, but high-speed Wi-Fi at reasonable cost with the least amount of airline baggage dumped into the connection.
Fly a lot of miles and earn a free Wi-Fi upgrade. That would be nice.
A new kind of airline brand experience
The prevalence of onboard Wi-Fi changes the nature of the airline brand experience. With affordable Wi-Fi a flight becomes an online experience more than an “airline” experience. We arrive at our destination totally refreshed, having engaged ourselves for hours on end aloft, rather oblivious to the sardine can that got us from point A to point B.