Using Air New Zealand’s in-flight Wi-Fi

Air New Zealand recently announced the price for its in-flight Wi-Fi service, with $40 being the flat fee they settled on… until they dropped it to $30 ten days later.

In response to the initial announcement there was a plethora of opinions posted, with many lamenting the incursion of the internet into one of the last bastions of relaxation.

Travelling for me is almost never about relaxation, it is about getting to some place (usually somewhere in NZ) to achieve specific work-related outcomes. And while travelling, I almost always fall behind on replying to emails, tickets and Slack messages, so the idea of being accessible for an additional 6 hours p/trip (NZ round trip time from Brisbane/Gold Coast) will add a lot of value to my week.

To date, I have ensured I have all of my emails stored locally before boarding, then replied as best I can during a flight. Then, once landed (often 10pm or later), I grab a coffee, tether my phone, and send off all of the emails sitting in my outbox.

But even that doesn’t really work. Tyring to reply to emails while offline robs me of access to information held in the cloud, which is virtually everything nowadays.

The price

$30 isn’t cheap, especially for a 3 hour flight, and at that price I would expect the service to be faster than comparably cheaper options offered by other airlines, and from what is reported, that may be the case.

Air NZ positions itself as a premium airline, the pricing mirrors this. Perhaps the only surprising element is the lack of a lower cost, time based option, e.g. one hour for $10.

User experience

I got to use the Air NZ in-flight WiFi service for free as part of the current trial on a flight from Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago, and while it wasn’t lightning fast, it did allow me to access our cloud based applications and upload documents to a standard that made it a worthwhile offering. I haven’t used an in-flight service with another airline, so haven’t got the ability to make a comparison.

While travelling on that particular flight, our NZ based staff were all on-line, so I would have lost an entire business day due to the 12 hour flight, but the internet access offered allowed me to get back to a number of clients and staff that would have otherwise been left waiting.

In more specific terms, I sent out contracts, processed ones that had been received, provided feedback to our dev team on work prior to release (and was subsequently able to be released that day), and helped in the escalation of provisioning issues.

Making the most of that extra arm room

I usually pay extra for the works deluxe option to ensure I have the arm space required to work (typing mostly) and justify the additional charge based on the value I can add to the business through being able to work effectively. That value is much easier to add when arm room is coupled with internet access. For me, the smart move would be to include internet access in the cost of the works deluxe/premium economy option to target business travellers.

Work/life balance

Ultimately, this service is an option, we don’t have to be contactable when on vacation. But, I understand the argument that expectations creep in over time, and people may feel as though they are expected to check in and therefore can’t really relax.

For me, I base a lot of Lightwire’s value proposition on our response times and our client’s ability to contact me, and with a busy travel schedule, this new service will make that value much easier to maintain without presenting an unreasonable cost to the business.

Brendan Ritchie

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