Airline loyalty can now earn Air Canada passengers free inflight connectivity. The carrier announced today that its top-tier elites will have the option to choose a Gogo Unlimited Use pass as a status benefit for the 2018 Altitude program year. The companies claim this as the “first North American airline to offer the choice of complimentary Gogo Wi-Fi to their most frequent flyers,” though it is not the only program linking loyalty and connectivity.
Members who qualify in the Elite 75k tier will have the option of a 6-month pass while Super Elite 100k members can choose a 12-month pass. The unlimited use will apply to all Air Canada, Air Canada Express and Air Canada Rouge operated flights.
Earlier this year, Air Canada announced plans to launch an all new, digital-first loyalty program in June 2020. While we design the future program, we’re committed to adding new options and benefits for Altitude members today and over the next two years. In-flight Wi-Fi is a critical amenity for business and leisure travelers alike, so we’re excited to become the first North American airline to offer the choice of unlimited Wi-Fi plans to our most frequent Altitude members. – Mark Nasr, Air Canada Vice President Loyalty & eCommerce
The Air Canada Altitude program is one of a few loyalty schemes where customers choose which benefits they prefer rather than being given the full complement of options. In this case the Gogo connectivity pass is added to the list of Altitude Select Privileges, joining upgrade credits or reduced requalification requirements. The chart is a bit of a mess but shows the Gogo option in the listing.
Linking connectivity to loyalty is not entirely new. Southwest Airlines offers top-tier elites complimentary access on its fleet-wide connectivity solution, for starters. JetBlue‘s FlyFi offering is free to all passengers, with a strong push towards authenticating to the system with a TrueBlue loyalty account (there is a guest option, nicely hidden on the page). Similarly, Virgin America offers top tier members free connectivity on its ViaSat-equipped aircraft. Those are not long for this world – Gogo 2Ku is coming to the full Alaska Airlines/Virgin America fleet – and neither is the Virgin America brand, but it still works today.
Perhaps more significant, however, is the acknowledgement that connectivity is tied to loyalty for a reasonably sized subset of frequent fliers. It is unlikely that either Air Canada or Gogo will share exactly how many Altitude customers choose this option, but some certainly will. It comes with a real dollar value – $300-600/year – so travelers know what they’re buying with their status. Putting a price tag on gifted elite status or reduced requalification levels is a bit harder to nail down.
— Seth Miller (@WandrMe) November 17, 2017
And, of course, this also increases the portion of 3rd party paid connectivity in the Gogo network. It is clear that’s where the best growth potential is and Gogo is working a multitude of angles to deliver more of that income to its bottom line.
Also worth noting that while passengers will have unlimited access on all Gogo-equipped Air Canada family aircraft that installation work is still ongoing, particularly in the twin-aisle fleet.