As people become more and more reliant on the Internet, connectivity has become a primary necessity for many, even when they are on a plane.
This has prompted some airlines to tap a potentially lucrative source of income. National flag carrier Garuda Indonesia and Lion Air’s full-service Batik Air are among the first airlines in the country to offer Internet connectivity during flights.
This service would enable passengers to browse the Internet, use social networking sites and send instant messages while in the sky.
Garuda president director Emirsyah Satar said all of its newest Boeing 777-300 Extended Range (ER) and Airbus A330s aircraft would be equipped with the service by August.
The airline and state run telecommunications firm PT Telkom are cooperating on the project to provide the new service to passengers on long-haul flights.
“We are working on it and the project is going to be finished in a month’s time. Our target is that by August, all passengers sitting in every class can enjoy WiFi connectivity,” he told The Jakarta Post.
Following the launch of the 777-300 ER plane for the Jakarta-Jeddah route on July 9, the airline has provided the service only for first-class customers.
The service is still in the trial phase because the firm is aiming to get certification from the Communication and Information Technology Ministry.
“We are in discussion with Telkom on how we are going to deliver the service,” he said, adding that either Garuda or Telkom would sell vouchers to passengers looking to enjoy in-flight connectivity.
He said that this new service would not only strengthen the airline’s global brand but also help boost its revenues.
Garuda will be operating two out of 10 777-300ERs and two A330s by the end of this year.
The second 777 jet will arrive next month to serve the traditional Jakarta-Jeddah, replacing the aging 747-400, while the remaining eight will arrive in 2014 and 2015.
Contacted separately, Lion Air general affairs director Edward Sirait said that Batik planned to provide the service in September.
“We are going to have a discussion with Telkomsel [Telkom’s subsidiary] tomorrow about the tariffs we should charge passengers,” Edward told the Post.
Unlike Garuda, Batik has yet to conduct trial operations of the WiFi service. Edward said that such a trial was not necessary at the moment.
However, he said that Batik was likely to drop the WiFi plan if it had to charge its passengers hundreds of thousands of rupiah.
“If we charge too much, we are afraid that they will not use the service and our investment will go to waste. So, let’s see the discussion,” he said.
Batik currently operates 737-900ERs flying to seven destinations such as Manado, Ambon and Balikpapan from Jakarta.
According to the Transportation Ministry, passengers are only allowed to use WiFi connectivity when the aircraft is flying over 10,000 feet above sea level.
The service would not be available during taxiing, take-off or landing.