After listening to United Airlines President Scott Kirby and Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian speak at the Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference this week one would be forgiven for believing that there is no such thing as a good internet connection in the sky. The opening session of the conference featured Bastian lamenting the poor quality and reliability of the connectivity service his airline receives from Gogo. The closing session featured Kirby’s comments, admitting that his airline’s wifi service (from Panasonic Avionics, Gogo and Viasat) is subpar. But both also suggested that they’re not alone with that suckage. Kirby quipped that “The good news is that none of our competitors have good, working wifi,” while Bastian offered similar observations.
Right now we haven’t had historically the bandwidth and the quality and the reliability for people to trust in that connection. As we’re building it and improving it and bringing satellite in our goal is to have the same level of bandwidth in the sky as you have on the ground. – Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian
First Mover Disadvantage?
Delta won big as an early adopter of inflight connectivity, according to Bastian, “The service was okay. It wasn’t great but we saw huge market shift occur, particularly in the business markets because we were first with it.” He also points out that there are still many airlines flying without connectivity. That is changing, however, even in the ULCC segment of the domestic market. And there is an argument to be made that the first movers came with a disadvantage. Yes, the carrier had the connectivity product early, but many industry observers would dispute Bastian’s claim of a huge shift in market share as a result.
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