Airlines aren’t generally the swiftest on the uptake; their business practices are decades and decades years old and the age of the mobile phone has only just this year begun to make itself apparent to them. So I’m not surprised that it’s taken until 2009 for something as cheap to implement, yet important and helpful, as free wi-fi to start gaining ground. Alaska, my favorite Northwest airline, has decided they’re going to plaster Sea-Tac with wireless for use by pretty much everybody. That’s great, guys, but Virgin is already on the way to outfitting their whole fleet with wi-fi. So while we appreciate it (for the few months the pilot program is scheduled to last), we would have also appreciated it four or five years ago.
In the airlines’ defense, they are a business and giving away wi-fi isn’t really a good way to earn money. But if you consider the costs (call it $2000 per month for routers, connection, and maintenance) and then you consider the gains (consumer confidence, maybe a map of the airport with sponsored eateries highlighted when you log in), it’s really a winning proposition even if you’re a little short at the end of the day. Here’s hoping more airlines and airports follow this example.