In the last year a lot of buzz has been surrounding in-flight internet. To some it seems great, to some it is the end of the world. Personally, I am somewhere in the middle. While I appreciate the convenience it brings, I also dread the same convenience. Why? My time on airplanes is my "quiet" time and it lets me disconnect. Having the ability to be on the internet takes that away and also raised the possibility that I may be expected to work while sitting on an airplane.
But the real question on my mind is will it survive. A few years ago Boeing started Connexion which eventually was decommisioned due to it's high cost and lack of use. A number of the newer services don't use satellites as Connexion did but instead use ground-based transmitters thus reducing the overhead in maintaing the service. So, in theory, it's cheaper to operate.
A few years ago, when an airline executive was asked about offering in-flight internet, the response was that very few people would actually pay to use it and thus this particular airline decided not to consider it. With all the recent deals on the penetration of in-flight Internet and the high rate of adopting it, I thought this may no longer be an issue.
But, now I find myself questioning this. Why? While the airlines are moving aggressivley to equip their planes with in-flight internet, most of them are also offering the service free through various promotions. Delta has had an ongoing offer for its Platinum members for free WiFi, recently Virgin America announced free WiFi through the end of the year and on Friday, American announced a partnership with Lexus for free in-flight internet from Nov 1 - 7.
With all this free internet, this tells me the service isn't making money and the rate of acceptance is much lower than expected. Perhaps in-flight internet is the Airfone's of today and thus will never have a high acceptance rate.