Google is going to make a lot of frequent flyers, and Virgin America, happy this holiday season. As a gift to people who fly on Virgin America’s WiFi-equipped planes, Google will be footing the bill for everybody on board between November 10, 2009, and January 15, 2010.
For Google, this is a smart marketing move because it generates tons of good will among everyone who flies Virgin America. But Google is really giving a gift to Virgin America in the form of yet one more incentive to fly its planes over competitors’. Will American Airlines and others with WiFi on board have to respond with their own freebie giveaways? I hope so.
Not that I mind paying the $13 per flight to use WiFi on Virgin America flights. In fact, I go out of my way to try to fly on Virgin America, just so that I don’t waste 6 hours going from coast to coast. But giving it away free makes it even more appealing. In fact, as I’ve suggested in the past, I wonder if Virgin America would be better off giving the WiFi away for “free” to everyone on board regularly, but charging more per flight. I’d certainly be willing to pay $25 to $50 more per flight if I knew there was WiFi. But that’s just me.
The only thing that worries me is whether the in-flight WiFi system can handle everyone on board surfing the Web at the same time. At least with the $13 fee, there is a natural cap to how many people use it at once.