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Hawaiian Airlines will add inflight wifi to its fleet. Eventually. But not particularly soon. CEO Peter Ingram does not believe the technology is sufficiently mature to serve his airline’s customers, and he provided no timeline for when that might change.
Responding to a question about how the company would finance such an upgrade for its fleet during an earnings call this week, Ingram was quick to point out that the absence of WiFi on board is offset by the service provided by cabin crew. Getting past the Aloha spirit as an entertainment or business supplement, however, he acknowledges that it is “becoming more common for airlines in general” and that Hawaiian is a late adopter. Part of that is cost-related, to be sure, but the bigger issue he sees is that most of the options are pretty crappy over the Pacific Ocean.
Facing the challenge that other carriers offer WiFi to passengers, even on their most basic fares, Ingram delivered the following reply:
First of all I wouldn’t concede that we have an overall product deficit when you consider all of the other attributes that go into our on-board experience. I think we’ve got, we are the only ones with authentic Hawaiian hospitality on our flights and we’ve got some other attributes like complimentary meals in the Main Cabin that others don’t have.
But having said that, I would accept the premise that Wi-Fi is becoming more common for Airlines in general, I think we are obviously a bit of a late adopter to Wi-Fi as we having not adopted it yet. And the reason for that candidly is, one, it was initially more of a business-oriented product. I think that has definitely changed.
Number two, the technology, the satellite technology for over water service, particularly over the Pacific is even today quite spotty. And I think there were some providers that have better coverage over the Pacific than others. We are continuing to evaluate what the options are.
I have been on some airplanes with really very poor – a very poor experience in terms of the Wi-Fi flying over the Pacific, and that is something that we want to make sure that by the time we think about doing that we are in a position to deliver a product that is up to the standards of our overall experience.
So it’s premature for us to say that, but I do think over time, the technology is going to get there and it is going to become sort of more of a table stakes expectation for the overall in-flight experience. So I think that is something we will likely do … eventually, it is something that we are likely going to invest in. I think it will give us an enhanced overall experience. I think we’ll make sure we have a great product for over the Pacific Ocean. And that will be something that I would look to have an opportunity to use to improve demand for travel to Hawaii over time.
While the existing technologies generally come up short in terms of capacity over the Pacific there are options on the horizon that could appeal to the carrier.
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Eventually Ingram will no longer be able to claim that the technology is insufficient. And given typical install lead times the window to make that decision is likely already open.