The 31 reasons that inflight wifi is not making money

From the WSJ we hear that sales for inflight wifi have been disappointing. It seems that when you give it away the usage is pretty high, but things change when there is a price:

“.. in tests and now in regular service, usage drops off considerably when travelers must pay for the service. Alaska Airlines even tested charging just $1. The result: a lot fewer laptops, BlackBerrys and iPhones signed on.”

That Alaska Airlines experience made raised my suspicions that there is more going on here than price.

“There’s a very substantial decline in passenger usage the minute you start charging for the service,” said Michael Planey, a consultant specializing in in-flight passenger technologies. “It really begins to invalidate the model on which this service is being built for the next 10 years.”

It seems that airlines and providers are petrified that the norm will end up being to offer Wifi for free to all customers, and the early results are not good. Is wifi in the sky doomed for all of us?

A little bit later we hear that:

Most U.S. airlines with Wi-Fi are using a service called Gogo from Aircell LLC, which built a network of cellular towers across the country.

Now everyone that flys can afford to pay $1, so clearly there is more at stake here. So let’s have a look at the GoGo sign up form – this is the other ‘cost’ people pay. Below is the form you use to sign up prior to departing – if you are organised enough. I imagine the form you get when you are signing up en route is very similar – and I will test this soon.

It’s hard to know where to start, but this is a usability disaster. There are so many boxes to fill out, and GoGo just wants so much.

  • Title – why do they need my title?
  • Name – why do you need a name? – unless this is the credit card name, in which case it’s only one field, not two.
  • I’ve never seen two reminder questions on the same form before. Even one is one too many.
  • I struggle to understand why we would ever have to type our email address or password twice these days – but this form wants us to retype both of them
  • The terms of use agreement tick box is way on the other side of the page from the next buttons. It’s easy to miss – as I did.
  • The right hand side address information is optional – but it doesn’t seem to be visually. Why would you even need my address and, heaven forbid, phone number?
  • There are 20 fields on the page, where basically the only things required are the email address and password.

I’ve helpfully marked the form up – Red is for boxes that are not required, Green is for the ones that are. Click on the picture for a zoomed in look.

All of that information, and GoGo still does not have a payment method from the person registering. After entering dummy data I wasn’t surprised by this stage to see another big form – and one asking for my address again.

It’s just too much. GoGo has provided me with 33 reasons to get frustrated and stop – that’s 31 fields and two buttons.

This is worse when you consider that many people signing up will be doing so on an iPhone or other mobile device. Filling in 31  fields on an iPhone is just too hard, and when you combine it with actual dollar cost it easy to see that the total cost exceeds the perceived value.

How to fix this

Gogo appears to have multiple aims for the login process – and so collect far too much data along the way. They need to focus on making it as simple as possible to take customers money – and that is it. Every extra field is another impediment to signing up, and I would expect to see dramatic changes in signups if things were made easy.

Here’s how:

  1. Remove the front sign-up page entirely – it is not required
  2. Add email address and password to the credit card page. Make it the new front page*
  3. Add a paypal payment option to that page – that way you don’t even need my billing address

and that’s it. To keep improving Gogo can:

  1. Conduct A/B tests, watch the click streams, track results and tweak constantly.
  2. Add in sales phrases/pitches during the process and test response rates.
  3. Lower the prices

*it will need a bit of a redesign – but just move things around for now.

What do you think?

Published by Lance Wiggs


5 replies on “The 31 reasons that inflight wifi is not making money”

  1. Does it actually give you the cost anywhere before you give your credit card details?
    I never enter my credit card details into a site that doesn’t first confirm what they will be charging me. The credit card details page should be the last page before a confirmation that the transaction has been processed. You shouldn’t have to enter the details, save them, and then see what you’re ordering.

    This sign up page looks like a place holder in general until you can actually get on the plane. I’d wait till I was seated before signing up.


  2. Why is sign up or separate payment required at all? Bang it on my airfare and give me a login with my boarding pass. The last thing I need is a 30 minute signup process on a 2 hour flight.


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