It’s been nearly four years since Boeing shut down its satellite-based Connexion inflight-internet service. Lufthansa was a major customer, back in the day. Now, they’ve revived it, in partnership with Panasonic, and are once again dubbing it “FlyNet.”
The service is being rolled out first on “selected North Atlantic routes” — Frankfurt to New York-JFK, Detroit, and Atlanta, for starters — and is intended to be available globally by the end of 2011.
From the press release:
After opening the browser, they can automatically access the exclusive, free Lufthansa FlyNet portal, where they will find constantly updated news about economics, politics, sports and entertainment. Via this portal they can access the Internet service provided by Deutsche Telekom, which is to be paid from February 2011 on. Service provider information detailing the various billing options is available on this portal as well, including payment via credit card, via integrated roaming partners or by redeeming Miles & More award miles. The price for one hour’s online access is 10.95 euros or 3,500 miles, while the 24-hour flat rate is 19.95 euros or 7,000 miles. Under the 24-hour flat rate agreement, passengers can access the Internet on all Lufthansa connecting flights equipped with a hotspot during the period of validity as well as after the flight in Lufthansa lounges. Thanks to the introductory FlyNet offer, inflight Internet access will be available for free on FlyNet-equipped aircraft until January 31, 2011.
As an aside on the pricing structure: 7000 miles for 24 hours of access is ludicrously expensive. 19.95 euros — or around $26.50 at today’s exchange rates — is better value.
Also, notably: “In spring 2011, inflight data communication should also be possible using the mobile phone standards GSM and GPRS.” Data, not voice.
As Air Transport World notes, Turkish Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, Dragonair and Gulf Air have similar plans to launch inflight internet on long-range flights.
Nice to see connectivity expanded on long flights. Now, let’s hear about in-seat power throughout the plane…
Upgraded: iPads as inflight entertainment
Discount airline Iceland Express, which flies primarily within Europe, but also offers limited trans-Atlantic service from Reykjavik to New York and Winnipeg (Winnipeg!), is launching iPads as inflight entertainment. You’ll be able to rent an iPad onboard long-haul flights, for starters, and eventually on shorter flights. The unit will cost £9 or $13 to rent, with about 25 units on board each flight.
Most of the news regarding TSA lately has been about junk-touching and radiation’s effects on the body, but what about the contents of the bags themselves? Well, according to a recent poll by British airfare aggregator SkyScanner, “a massive 43% of travellers admitted to having smuggled banned items past security staff; 29% had done so by accident, but 14% confessed to smuggling knowingly.”
Upgraded: Biofuels in the real world
Lufthansa is testing a 50-50 blend of traditional jet fuel and biofuel on Airbus A321 runs on the Hamburg-Frankfurt route, beginning April 2011. This isn’t just a one-off test. Been there, done that. This is a weeks-long test in a real-world environment, carrying paying passengers.
Upgraded: Classic airport security cartoons
In a good reminder that frustration with the TSA is nothing new, the New Yorker provides a brief cartoon retrospective mocking airport security. One dates back to 1938. Alas, most are post-9/11.
What better way to make the hours literally fly by on a Lufthansa flight from Tel Aviv to Frankfurt: Pillow fight!!!!
Someone on board LH687 captured this video of rowdy French passengers getting frisky with the pillows. Even the flight attendant joins the fun!
(I couldn’t imagine this kind of raucous behavior being tolerated on a US-bound flight, or God forbid, on a US-flagged airline. Except maybe Southwest… they do have toilet paper races, after all. But others? No way. For starters, they’d be charging 12 bucks for a pillow. And that brazen attack on the flight attendant? Intolerable, in the war on terror. Lock down the passengers!)
Every year, around this time, there’s a nearly-simultaneous sale on multiple airlines, with discounts for business class airfares across the oceans. It’s as predictable as the Rockettes’ act. (There will be high-kicking.)
Blame seasonality. Beyond the economic slowdown that’s killed premium-cabin traffic, there’s the seasonal slowdown, as business travel grinds to a halt near year-end. What this means for the leisure traveler is premium class deals in premium economy, business class, and first.
Most of the deals are to Europe. Very few deals target Asia. There are a handful of deals to Australia, too, but they’re not the best I’ve seen.
Sure, even the discounted premium seats will still cost you more than a coach seat. But there are some decent prices nonetheless.
Compare a roundtrip in coach from New York to Paris for $858, all-in, on American, with a $1415 fare for the same dates on OpenSkies, the British Airways subsidiary operating an all-premium configuration. (The quoted fare is for a cradle seat, which they call “BizSeat,” vs. their lie-flat “BizBed” product. It’s arguably a high-end premium economy seat, or a low-end business class seat.)
Or Continental’s BusinessFirst sale: Houston to London for $2087 all-in, vs. $1096 for the same flights in coach.
Or check out Lufthansa, which is running specials to a range of European destinations from each of the US cities where it has nonstop departures to Frankfurt or Munich. Cities that don’t see regular fare sales, like Charlotte, get a little love thrown their way, though it’s not quite as generous as the discounts New Yorkers get. (E.g., Charlotte to Amsterdam for $2278 all-in, vs. $1099 for the same flights in coach.)
These flights would cost thousands more at other times of the year.
But not all airlines are playing along. I test-drove Virgin Atlantic Upper Class fares, and I wasn’t impressed at all. Over $3000 for a flight from New York to London? That’s hardly a sale.
Bottom line: If you haven’t booked international travel around the holidays, don’t neglect to search for business class fares. You may find a deal.
Upgraded: Knowing what to do when you’re traveling for the holidays
Before you head to the airport, consider this post on five ways to get an edge on other travelers during the holiday season. The TSA has also published an updated list of do’s and don’t's for bringing items through security, which includes references to the infamous issue of pies. Don’t let anyone say you weren’t warned.
Downgraded: Your health in the sky
Contracted H1N1 or another nasty contagion? Got travel plans? Unless you’ve got good travel insurance, be prepared to pay a fee if you want to change you flights if you’re sick. From several reports (see here and here), it’s clear that being contagious doesn’t make you any less desirable aboard America’s airlines. Medical waivers be damned! Give them your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to cough up a lung onto their seatmates. It guess that’s freedom.
Upgraded: Regulation of frequent flier miles?
Senator Chuck Schumer of New York is pushing for an inquiry into frequent flier programs, with particular attention to the phenomenon of expiring miles. Airlines, of course, argue that an inquiry is unnecessary by the government in the affairs of private business. Much like Congress is looking to regulate credit card fees and other business practices of the banks, this could get interesting.
Downgraded: Lufthansa intra-European economy seating
Lufthansa is shrinking the legroom in its economy cabin on shorter flights within Europe, to jam in more people. Thankfully, they’re leaving the big birds that fly across the oceans as they are, for now.
Upgraded: Communing with animals while you travel
A man with 15 lizards strapped to his chest was caught at LAX. For those keeping score, it was two geckos, two monitor lizards (!) and 11 skinks.
Lufthansa officially announced today that it was bringing back its global inflight internet service. Redubbed FlyNet, the system recreates the Boeing-powered satellite-based system that was up and running as recently as 2006.
Unlike the inflight wireless systems that airlines are running in the US, Lufthansa’s FlyNet, powered by Panasonic, will use a satellite-based network, which means that you can get a signal over the oceans. And if you’re looking for a way to pass the time on a long flight, I think internet access is a pretty good way to do it. (Yes, I know, it can tether you to the office, too, which means you’re never off the clock. It’s a tradeoff.)
How about price? Too soon to ask for specifics, but I like that mileage redemption is an option:
Various different price models are planned – ranging from a rate by the hour to a monthly flat rate. Passengers should also be able to redeem Miles & More award miles for the use of WLAN Internet connections. The exact price for specific products will be announced at a later date.
I like the mileage redemption option, and it will be interesting to see how creative they get with pricing. A recent study by Alaska Airlines showed that customers are extremely price sensitive when it comes to internet access (at least on domestic US flights). One domestic provider, Row 44, has hinted at the possibility of inflight service subsidized by advertising. Who knows, perhaps Lufthansa will consider ads to reduce the cost to passengers as well.