Boeing disconnects

17 Aug 2006 by business traveller

Just as business travellers in the UK learnt they would once again be able to bring their laptops on board, Boeing has officially confirmed its retreat from the inflight internet market. After weeks of speculation the US aircraft manufacturer announced that following a "detailed business and market analysis of Connexion by Boeing... the company has decided to exit the broadband communications connectivity markets."

Connexion by Boeing launched its first commercial service in May 2004 on board Lufthansa flights between Munich and Tokyo. But despite signing up eleven airlines including Etihad, Singapore and Scandinavian Airlines, Connexion has failed to attract sufficient customers to justify the substantial "time, resources and technology" invested in the service. The company charges a flat rate fee of $26.95 for an entire flight, or one, two or three hours access priced at $9.95, $14.95 and $17.95 respectively.

Boeing confirmed that the company expects to phase out its service by the end of 2006, in co-operation with the airlines concerned. Says spokesperson John Dern:

"The market for the service simply hasn't developed as we had expected. It's not an issue of technology, it's a market issue. The take up has been slower than anticipated - market penetration has been in the low single digits after two plus years of commercial service."

Rival company OnAir, which currently provides in-seat SMS and email services on Emirates, Iberia, Qantas and Virgin Atlantic aircraft among others, believes its "fundamentally different approach" will result in a viable onboard communication service.

Says George Cooper, CEO of OnAir: "Our model recognises passengers' differing requirements, ranging from using their mobile or BlackBerry-type devices, to accessing webchat and webmail through the in-seat inflight entertainment system, to full wifi internet and VPN access through their laptops."

OnAir plans to introduce GSM and GPRS services in Western Europe in 2007, followed by internet services on long range aircraft in 2008.

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Report by Mark Caswell

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