JetBlue is an innovator. Eight years ago, when the industry was locking in Wi-Fi partners, they sat back, watched the market and waited to install the best in-flight connectivity (IFC) system. Rather than just “check the internet box,” they waited for the ViaSat-1 satellite to launch.
JetBlue saw the potential, the benefit and the market advantage of having the ViaSat in-flight Wi-Fi service —known under the JetBlue brand, Fly-Fi — as it could serve every customer on every flight with not just a superfast internet connection, but an ability to stream video, music and more.
JetBlue is also a market disrupter, offering Fly-Fi for free — a radical departure from other airlines, or existing in-flight Wi-Fi providers that charge a great deal for an in-flight internet connection. At first, JetBlue tried a free, basic service and a higher-end paid version. But it wasn’t long before the popularity of the free version convinced the airline to just make top-tier Wi-Fi available at no charge to everyone.
“We wanted our customers to have a seamless experience, without the hassle of getting out their credit cards to get online,” said Mariya Stoyanova, JetBlue’s head of product development. “We wanted the experience to be frictionless.”
Thus was born the notion of “fast, full and free” with JetBlue’s in-flight Wi-Fi offering.
“Fast” is made possible by the enormous capacity “baked into” Viasat’s satellite systems. The more capacity a satellite has, the faster the data speeds and the better the reliability — even when there are more devices connected than there are people on the plane.
From there, “full” simply means everyone gets a full-fledged in-flight internet service, not some stripped-down version only good for texting, basic email or browsing.
“‘Fast, full and free’ is a powerful message — it signifies that we’re building out an in-flight Wi-Fi program that will meet and exceed our customers’ expectations when in-flight,” Stoyanova said. “We place a lot of value in brand loyalty, and the Viasat internet service is a big part of the experience we offer. We feel it’s one major factor that keeps people returning to JetBlue again and again.”
Along with customers singing JetBlue’s praises is the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX), which gave the airline its Best Wi-Fi Award in 2017. Viasat has also won numerous other awards for technological innovation behind its IFC service.
More free on the way?
In addition to JetBlue, Australia’s Qantas Airlines, which also uses the Viasat in-flight internet service on its domestic fleet, offers free in-flight connectivity to its customers. And what we’re seeing is when the product is free, the take rates, or engagement, go up. Comparatively speaking, the industry standard for customers opting to use Wi-Fi is around 7 to 10 percent; for JetBlue and Qantas it’s upwards of 30 to 40 percent. That doesn’t just translate into happy customers getting a premium service for free, it also provides more opportunities for the airlines to provide enhanced loyalty solutions while potentially offsetting internet costs via new partnership models.
JetBlue, for example, enjoys an added-value sponsorship with Amazon offering customers a 30-day free trial of its Prime service when on a JetBlue flight. The customer enjoys free streaming content, Amazon gets a potential new customer and JetBlue can offset internet costs. This kind of partnership is only possible when an airline can offer a strong internet connection, and customers can enjoy great deals in the air that are better than what they can get on the ground. The best examples are the ones where the deals carry forward beyond the flight itself.
People expect to get fast, free internet in most public places these days — from coffee shops to hotels — and airlines should be no different. But to meet this expectation, capacity is key; it’s what enables Viasat to provide great service in the air and even at the gate before and after takeoff. Some 20 percent of people get online before takeoff, and it takes a lot of capacity to serve all of those planes on the ground full of people wanting to connect. Air-to-ground systems that work off cell towers on the ground can’t provide this at all, since their antennas are on the bottom of the aircraft. Other satellite systems that are capacity-deprived just can’t match the service quality delivered by Viasat because they don’t have the bandwidth at an affordable cost.
JetBlue has made the commitment to outfit its new Airbus aircraft and retrofit its current fleet with the latest Viasat equipment, enabling all planes in JetBlue’s fleet to connect to Viasat’s powerful fleet of satellites — today and well into the future.
For Viasat, our JetBlue partnership has helped demonstrate the power of delivering fast, full and free Wi-Fi to the flying public — giving our airline partner a major advantage to meeting customer expectations, even at 35,000 feet.