Flights will never be the same. They are not a refuge anymore, no longer a mini escape from the hustle and bustle of reality. If you have a wireless device and a fully charged battery then you are now able to surf away, but of course you'll have to pay. A Wall Street Journal article titled "The Latest Hot Spot Is on the Plane" was released a few weeks ago and reported that Delta Air Lines will soon be offering Internet access on its flights. American Airlines has already begun to offer the product on a select few planes. Passengers will be able to upload and download files, surf the Web, e-mail clients – basically perform every function normally done in the office, except talk over the phone. Relatively soon, other airlines are going to jump on the bandwagon. Many are still in the midst of testing their equipment to ensure a smooth transition.

The greatest benefit of this new development will not be for those who purchase the product on flights, but rather for the airlines offering the new technology. I do not doubt a demand for Wi-Fi will exist, but there will also be a handful of fliers who will refuse to pay for something that is usually offered for free in coffee shops and even some airports. Once having paid, there may even be a benefit to fliers besides staying connected. If Wi-Fi becomes a hot commodity, airlines may begin to remove the nonsense fees they have recently begun to place on their customers. Airlines could receive a significant amount of cash generated from this new product. Have a look at the article for more pricing details.

As airlines explore more opportunities to stimulate cash flow, they should also consider taking a look at what upsets their customers the most – lost luggage. Looking for ways to eliminate costs and also please customers is an opportunity that should be seized. Some airlines have made changes to their handling process and have been more than satisfied with the results. Take a look at WSJ’s article, "The Airlines' Bag Reflex," for a more in-depth overview. The article states that it costs an airline approximately $90 to return a lost bag to its proper owner. This $90 eventually turns into about $4 billion a year for the global airline industry. Wow. It would of course take some extra money to look for a more efficient process to handle bags; and it is understandable that airlines may not have the budget for such a drastic change considering the economic trends.

If this is the case, however, then how are airlines affording the installments of Wi-Fi in their planes? Because there will be immediate results in the form of revenue that would cover the cost of investment. If the economic conditions were different, maybe airlines would become more focused on the long run and fix their luggage problems. They would save a decent amount of cash and retain more customers; but that is not likely to happen anytime soon. If I had it my way, I would rather say hello to my bag at the terminal than to the Internet in the sky.
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Kathleen Jordan

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