Getting an internet connection on to an aircraft is far from trivial, but for many airlines that is the easy part. Building and configuring the end-user portal to manage the connection process presents a wide array of challenges for airlines. With multiple connectivity vendors involved the portal becomes even more critical, and more complex, for ensuring a consistent passenger experience. American Airlines completed its inflight connectivity systems upgrade last year and now is taking that more difficult step, harmonizing the login portal for its passengers.
New AAInflight Portal for domestic fleet
The new AAInflight.com portal provides a common front-end for all aircraft flying with the Gogo or Viasat inflight connectivity solutions on board. This includes the mainline, single-aisle fleet as well as larger regional jets. The deployment process is expected to run “throughout July” on the affected aircraft.
Less clear is the impact on the twin-aisle fleet. The newest 787-8 aircraft as those are fitted with Viasat’s hardware, but those planes are parked today. American declined to comment on how they will fit in to the new portal and pricing structures. The other long-haul aircraft fitted with satellite-based WiFi from Panasonic Avionics are not included in the current portal retrofit. But those planes will be eventually. A company spokesperson confirms that the PAC portal “will be updated in the future” as part of this effort.
New pricing & monthly subscription plans coming
The new portal means that American will take over control for pricing of the connectivity plans. This should allow for a more consistent passenger experience, such as the same price on the same route, regardless of aircraft type. The company will also tie the login and payment to an AAdvantage account number where the passenger chooses. This eases the used of saved payment methods in an account and can also be used to offer targeted promotions by passenger, elite status tier or other factors. A complimentary session could be provided as a service recovery give, tied to the frequent flyer profile. These are theoretical, not promised, use cases, but highlight the value to the airline of controlling the process.
The common login interface also allows for American to launch its own subscription pricing plans for inflight WiFi services. The company will transition away from the Gogo-based subscriptions to an “American Airlines Wi-Fi Subscription Plan” in the near future. Not details are being provided yet for pricing on that plan.
Shifting to an airline-managed logon also means a potential transition away from the native Gogo passes, including the T-Mobile partnership for free browsing or pre-paid passes purchased on the Gogo website. But it also means potential to negotiate similar deals to cover the entire fleet rather than just some aircraft.
Gogo confirms that, for now, the T-Mobile partnership remains. But for how long and how remains unknown.
(Note: A previous version of the story indicated the TMo partnership was ending; that has been clarified above.)
Separate from the subscription pricing, full internal control of the portal also allows American to develop new ancillary sales opportunities on board. The sample version shared by the company includes ads for hotel bookings and lounge membership, along with the other resources.
Some in the industry believe these ancillary sales options within the online portal are the key to recouping the cost of installing and operating the inflight connectivity platforms. That no airline nor vendor has delivered on that yet does give good reason to question that plan.
Still, generating the revenue as part of a broader plan around the inflight connectivity platform is not the worst idea in the market.
A better user experience
Finally, the common portal URL and design should help solve troubles for passengers on multi-segment itineraries and dealing with the multiple logins and URLs.
Seems like part of the challenge is the different URLs used for the capture portal on the different WiFi systems on @AmericanAir. aainflight<dot>com works on some and aa<dot>viasat<dot>com on others. SSL cert challenges aside, this isn't a great UX with the mixed suppliers.
— Seth Miller (@WandrMe) January 31, 2020
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