Surfin' The Web At 35,000 Feet
Almost two years behind schedule,
plagued by 9/11 and its effect on Boeing customers, Connexion is
finally ready for launch. The Boeing subsidiary will make its
maiden flights aboard Lufthansa starting later this month, on
aircraft scheduled to spend more than eight hours in the air.
But the question is, frankly, who wants it?
The answer may very well lie in first and business class on
long-haul domestic and international flights. At least, that's what
industry analysts say.
"I think Boeing is at the cutting edge of what is probably going
to be the next breakthrough in in-flight amenities," said aviation
consultant Mike Boyd. "It may get to a point where for business
travelers, they won't go on an airline that doesn't have it."
But that's a long time away, especially given that Connexion
lost its three most trusted allies in the fallout after the 2001
terrorist attacks. American, Delta and United all bowed out as
passenger seat-miles tumbled and red ink spilled on the floor.
Connexion charges range from $9.95 per half-hour to $29.95 for
service during the entire flight (check your battery life before
you go full-boat, though).
Analysts (yeah, those guys again) say the wired or wireless
internet service (so far, carriers expressing an interest in
Connexion have all asked for wireless) probably won't be much of an
attraction for coach travelers, since they generally have trouble
just opening their laptops with their knees under their chins.
"This is a business- and first-class thing — and
conceivably someone who's in premium economy and desperate," said
Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with Teal Group. That's a big
question, given that business travel is just now making a rather
tentative comeback. "There's a percentage of the population that
will pay $30 for relatively free and clear Web access. It's not
big, but their ambitions aren't that big. That's probably why it