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Alaska passengers rave about Row 44

16th April 2009 - 13:36 GMT | by The Shephard News Team


Announcing initial results from its trial of the Row 44 passenger broadband connectivity service, Alaska Airlines describes the response from customers as “overwhelmingly positive”.

The US carrier launched the trial in a single Boeing 737-400 at the end of February. Since then more than 2,100 passengers have logged on and used the service. Of those who tried it and completed a survey, more than 96 per cent intended to use it again, the airline says.

Alaska is one of two carriers trying Row 44, which delivers a typical 4Mbit/sec to passenger laptops and other devices via a cabin WiFi network and leased Ku-band satellites over North America. The other is Southwest, which has equipped four of its 737s.

The Alaska surveys show that more than 78 per cent of those who tried the service were either “extremely likely” or “very likely” to recommend it. More than 75 per cent felt the service was either “excellent” or “very good”. About 65 per cent accessed it with laptops, the rest with smartphones and other handhelds. Activities included checking email, downloading and listening to music, watching streaming media and accessing social networks.

“It was fast and consistent,” says passenger C.J. Adams of Marysville, Washington. “As a frequent business traveller I appreciated the opportunity to work in real time - it even made my flight seem shorter. I will definitely use this service on future Alaska Airlines flights.”

Up to now the service has been offered free of charge. Alaska began evaluating pricing models this week and will continue to gather feedback from passengers. “Our most important consideration in determining the price is the need to give value to our passengers,” says Steve Jarvis, VP for marketing, sales and customer experience. “We will continue to optimise the service and listen closely to our customers to find a price that is both competitive with other airlines and fits comfortably within our passengers’ budgets.” The airline plans to set final pricing later this year. Passengers will be able to buy with all major credit cards via an inflight secure payment process.

Both the airline and Row 44 will have in mind the recent decision by Aircell, whose competing Gogo terrestrially based service is being implemented by half a dozen carriers, to offer a $7.95 special rate to passengers using handhelds rather than laptops.   

Apparently committing itself to a fleet implementation ahead of the end of the trial, Alaska says it plans to equip further aircraft in the coming months.

The Shephard News Team


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