On May 16, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) announced it had launched high-speed internet service with Viasat — the first airline in the Nordic countries to do so. We caught up with Gunilla Ait El-Mekki, director of product concepts for SAS, and asked her a few questions about what the new Viasat internet service means for the airline:
What drove the decision to upgrade the Wi-Fi on SAS aircraft?
Mainly the general development on ground when it comes to internet, new smart devices and our constant need to be connected. We have been waiting for a system that will live up to our passengers’ expectations of fast and reliable Wi-Fi in the air
Why did you choose Viasat for your narrow-body fleet?
It was the best offer and product and the fact that you also see yourselves as a communications company. We saw the possibility to learn and develop together.
What do you hope or expect the reaction of passengers will be to the improved Wi-Fi from Viasat?
Astonishment of how good and fast it is no matter what you do; stream, surf or just catching up on social media
How does improved Wi-Fi fit into the SAS “Imagined By” theme?
SAS has invested in some big improvements lately like new cabin interior, the New Nordic food concept and now high-speed Wi-Fi. Every innovation we create is from our travelers’ perspective. Their view of the world is our view. Time matters to them, so making their time with SAS as comfortable and rewarding as possible is in our DNA. Many of our customers are frequent flyers, and we play an important part in the lives of a lot of people. It is important for our passengers to stay connected, to check their cloud and get some work done. In short: to be able to get on with their lives during the entire journey.
Does the high-speed service enjoyed on the ground by people in Scandinavian countries make it more important to provide something similar in the air?
Absolutely, but it also makes it even harder to match since we are very spoiled with really fast internet in our homes here in Scandinavia.
How valuable is it to have a premium Wi-Fi service to offer to your frequent flyers?
It is essential in order to stay competitive in the market. It is an important part of our commercial strategy.
With many ‘short-hop’ flights on SAS, does this make it more important to have gate-to-gate Wi-Fi on your aircraft (compared to ATG where connectivity is only possible in the air)?
We strive to make time matter to our passengers. Being able to use Wi-Fi from the start of your flight until you arrive at your destination is a true proof point.
How important is it to offer a free or low-cost service to your passengers?
Our most frequent flyers do deserve free Wi-Fi; they spend so many hours in our planes it’s like their second home. Also, when you’ve purchased a Plus ticket you buy a concept of easy, quick and comfortable travel with fast track through security and lounge access. Free Wi-Fi was the missing link in this concept. This said, if you pay for Wi-Fi it should really be a good value for the money, and I think that we can promise that.
How important is the ability to stream video to your passengers?
Being online is one of the main activities that you do on the ground, so to be able to do it when flying with us is an important initiative to support the lifestyle of modern travelers. It’s also essential to stay competitive and to close the digital gap in the passenger journey.
Do you think Viasat’s innovative technology fits well with the modern service SAS is providing for its passengers?
It is a perfect match.
How do you envision the future for this service expanding with your fleet?
We have just started the rollout. Next step is to add all fun, inspiring and time saving services to our passengers that we are working on.