Lufthansa (re)launches FlyNet inflight broadband on long-haul flights

After a four-year suspension, Lufthansa has relaunched its FlyNet inflight Internet service on November 30, 2010. With the introduction, Lufthansa became the first airline to offer passengers wireless broadband Internet access on intercontinental routes. The airline is initially rolling out the FlyNet service on aircraft operating select North Atlantic routes, such as Frankfurt to New York, Detroit and Atlanta. Ten Lufthansa aircraft (mainly A330s) have been readied for the service so far. 

Lufthansa is offering the Ku-band satellite-based Internet service in partnership with Panasonic and mobile network operator T-Mobile. The airline will initially provide a WiFi Internet service for laptops and smartphones and GSM capability will be added in spring 2011. No voice or Skype calls will be permitted, however. “We got a clear message from our customers that they are seeking quietness on board and we respect this,” says Lufthansa vice president product management and innovation Christian Körfgen. Besides paid connectivity, passengers can also access news, sports and entertainment for free on an inflight wireless portal.

Lufthansa will offer the FlyNet service for free until 31 January 2011. Thereafter, the price for one hour access is EUR10.95 or 3,500 miles, while the 24-hour flat rate is EUR19.95 or 7,000 miles. T-Mobile customers can use the inflight WiFi under their existing cell phone contracts, paying a fee of EUR1.80 for every 10 min. Under the 24-hour flat rate agreement, passengers can also use the FlyNet service on connecting Lufthansa flights during the period of validity as well as in Lufthansa lounges. The carrier aims to have 20 widebodies installed with FlyNet by the end of February 2011 and on all its intercontinental aircraft by the end of 2011.

Lufthansa’s Christian Körfgen earlier said that Lufthansa does not believe or expect FlyNet to generate profits. “It’s a service that is important for our customers. [As an airline] you can invest money in drink and food and in-flight entertainment or additional legroom. You have to make a choice about what is important for your customer, what is important for your brand, and we believe [in-flight connectivity] is one of the most important business items for business travellers, our most important travellers, but [we don’t see it] as an additional revenue stream.” 

Connectivity on short-haul flights
Lufthansa is also studying in-flight connectivity options for its short- and medium-haul aircraft. According to Körfgen, the carrier envisages offering broadband on everything from intra-European flights of four to fives hours in duration to even “half-hour flights”. The Lufthansa VP said the airline expects to offer the same type of services on its narrowbody aircraft as it will offer on its long-haul fleet, although its has not picked a provider as yet. “There are different possibilities, such as satellite or possibly terrestrial. We are looking at it quite sharply.” The airline reportedly is also eyeing live Internet television (for example  soccer games) and high definition video. 

SAS, Emirates
Scandinavian Airlines, meanwhile, in April 2011 will become the first airline to offer in-flight connectivity free of charge to Business class and Economy Extra customers on both short and long-haul routes. The service will be offered as a fee-based option in Economy. Since 2008, Emirates has been fitting its fleet with AeroMobile’s in-flight GSM  solution, and by the end of 2010 some 87 Emirates aircraft will offer AeroMobile on board. Emirates reportedly also just has taken delivery of 2 A380s with in-flight WiFi provided by OnAir. Other carriers that currently provide both WiFi and GSM connectivity include Oman Air and Eqypt Air

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