Passenger Services & Wayfinding // // 6 Comments

Satisfying the need for free airport WiFi

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Availability of WiFi has long been an issue for major airports

Availability of WiFi has long been an issue for major airports – could JiWire have found a solution that caters to both the business and the consumer?

A key conclusion emerging from the Future Travel Experience Europe Conference, held in Amsterdam last November, was that free airport WiFi is an absolute must. With social media and apps now widely used to convey information to travellers during times of disruption, it is essential that airports provide the WiFi connectivity to enable passengers to receive that information.

One possible solution is being explored by JiWire and Advanced Wireless Group (AWG), which have collaborated on a way to provide free WiFi to travellers. The basic concept of the service is that two tiers of wireless service will be offered: a free, but lower quality connection which would simply require the user to view an advert or video beforehand, and a premium paid service for those wishing to browse at higher speeds, uninterrupted.

The key component behind the system, however, is its location-based advertisements. Shops and restaurants within the airport will be able to directly reach out to a captive audience that they know is within the vicinity.

“Consumer demand for free WiFi continues to grow exponentially in our venues as new mobile devices saturate the market,” stated Scott Phillips, President and CEO of AWG. “JiWire has proven their ability to engage high-end corporate sponsors and advertisers who desire a direct audience with our valuable audience of consumers in airports. Our customers are happy to engage with the sponsor for a brief period as an alternative to paying for fast Internet access which makes this a win-win for all involved.”

It is yet to be seen if passengers will tolerate forced advertising for a service which many feel should be offered totally free, but when it comes to making airport WiFi more commonly available, this is certainly a step in the right direction.

What do you think?

Future Travel Experience passionately believes that free airport WiFi is a fundamental part of an enhanced travel experience. In an era in which airports are striving to improve disruption communications through channels such as social media and apps, does a paid/ad-supported WiFi model really help mobile/tablet users at airports?

Future Travel Experience Europe 2015

Interested in learning more about improving your passenger experience? At FTE Europe 2015, which will take place in London from 2-4 February 2015, senior speakers from the likes of Heathrow Airport, Ryanair, Swedavia, Norwegian Air Shuttle, Munich Airport, Virgin Atlantic, Expedia, London City Airport, IATA, Air France-KLM, London Stansted Airport, Lufthansa, Bechtel, Gatwick Airport and United Airlines will share their latest passenger-focused plans and visions in the 'On the Ground' conference.

The event will also include a dedicated 'Up in the Air' conference stream, IATA workshop, an extensive exhibition, tours of Heathrow T2, London Stansted and London City Airport, and a 'Best of British' Gala Evening at Altitude 360 @ Altitude London, London's premier sky venue which offers jetliner views of the city.

» View the full FTE Europe 2015 'On the Ground' agenda

» Register to attend FTE Europe 2015


6 comments from our readers

  1. Lee Lawrence says:

    Free WiFi is being made widely available in many bars, restaurants and public spaces and it follows that many passengers not only require, but expect, the same service in airports. With the increase in smartphone and tablet usage the connected consumer sees the airport as an ideal location to make use of downtime by checking emails, searching for information and making purchase decisions. Airports need to see this as an opportunity, not a cost, and look to areas such as sponsorhip to help fund this. Many advertisers are looking beyond the ‘interruption’ method to have a more personal dialogue with the passenger and see service provision as a way to achieve this. Passengers will tolerate a level of sympathetic branding if it is both relevent and interesting which is exactly what the right sort of sponsorship should be.

  2. Tanielle says:

    With many hotels and apartments now providing free Wi-Fi, customers definitely expect this from all other aspects of their travel journey with airports being on the top of the list.
    The added benefit of marketing and advertising via the (sponsored) Free Wi-Fi for more relevant location based ads or special offers will translate into better conversions for retailers and businesses and will also enhance the overall customer experience.

  3. Albany was the first midsize hub airport to go “wall-to-wall” wireless back in the early 90’s with a “paid” service business model that garnered us a lot of attention. About 4 years ago we finally went Free and immediately saw an increase in usage but NOTHING like what we have seen in the last 7 months. Mobile device traffic has taken over at about 10:1. This puts a huge demand on your old wireless system and yes, it can bring an Access Point (AP) down (I have seen it happen) if it is not designed for such a load. If you technology is more than 3 years old I highly recommend newer equipment that utilizes the newer Beaming and spatial stream technology.

    Many of our flyers seem to appreciate and have commented on our Free Service, especially a number of the Students, Teachers and other Higher Education personnel that seem to utilize our airport frequently.

  4. The issue is that, unlike bars, restaurants and hotels, travelers do not pay to use the airport. Commercial venues can include the cost of wifi service in its prices, the airport has no such option (at least not in the USA, where airports are not profit-making operations). That leads to the essential question of “WHY” should wifi be free? I have yet to hear a persuasive argument, other than simply “that’s what customers expect”. The reality is, while customers may expect it, what’s the consequence to airports if travelers don’t get it? There may very well be a good business case for free wifi in airports — I just haven’t heard it. Most airports already providing free wifi (including ours) can’t give a good business reason why they’re doing it.

  5. IM Smith says:

    In a word no! I recently tried to use the free wifi at BKK, impossible, too slow to even open the browser, gave up in the end. If the free service at a slower pace also includes ads it will just infuriate passengers more and be seen as another underhand technique to not actually give free wifi. Airports should help their caterers and allow them to give a free wifi offering, rather than block out independent service providers as happens in many airports. This way, the concessionaire gains and so does the airport. All this will go full circle and every trick will be tried until everyone just caves in, just like has happened in hotels and bars. In the old days it was over-priced phone calls, until that got wiped out by cell fones.

  6. Airports should look at WiFi like they look at Air Conditioning and Heating (i.e. no airport even think in not providing it for free and of good quaility). The cost I believe will be much lower, however the opportunities enormous. Airports will not realize about all the possibilities until they start to provide it.

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