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CWT Traveler

February 2019

Is the promise of free Internet on board a blessing or a curse?

With Delta Air Lines’ CEO, Ed Bastian, announcing recently that the company is working towards offering free Wi-Fi on all its flights, and with several airlines already offering the service – including low-cost carrier, Norwegian – one can only wonder if Internet access is going to become the latest must-have when choosing an airline.

High-speed train operators used to highlight the lack of onboard aircraft connectivity as a core benefit offered by rail companies – You're always plugged-in into your 4G network, with no excuse for not checking your e-mails and getting work done while traveling. Technological developments are giving airlines a better connection to the net and companies are using free access as a differentiator.

So, is free Internet access becoming a human right? Considering the time people spend surfing the net, you might think so. According to the latest GlobalWebIndex data, the average internet user spends around six hours each day using internet-powered devices and services, and I find it difficult to foresee this figure being likely to decrease in the coming years.

So, with that in mind, the race for having access to the internet seems unstoppable, which means we will need to face our own Jiminy Cricket if we decide to sleep on board, or watch the latest movies, instead of doing some online work.

The days of out-of-office messages saying we will not have e-mail access while traveling long-haul might well be numbered. Soon, it might even be possible to attend a conference call while flying. I can picture half of the cabin with headphones on trying to make themselves understood over the general chitchat, the pilot’s announcements and the engine’s noise. And, if I am honest, for me this image is terrifying.

Will we then assist in the creation of a new class: the quiet one where speaking will be forbidden? Maybe there is a premium pricing proposition in any class for silence?

Interesting times ahead of us, no doubt – but let’s not talk about it now as I have just landed and I'm catching up on my e-mails.

Author: Julian Walker, Head of External Market Communications and PR, Carlson Wagonlit Travel

Photo by Kym Ellis on Unsplash

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