Ryanair considering on-board wi-fi, with movies and TV shows
Ryanair is weighing options for on-board passenger wi-fi, with firms including US-based LiveTV having pitched solutions to the carrier, the Irish Independent has learned.
The airline has been reluctant so far to roll out an in-flight wi-fi system because it would need to justify the installation cost with the return it might generate.
The airline could eventually plump for a solution that would offer full internet access, or a 'closed circuit' style offering that would allow passengers to use their own smartphones, laptops or computer tablets to pay for access to a large library of content such as movies or TV shows.
Under the latter 'intranet' option, while passengers wouldn't have internet access, they would still be able to browse local content and functionality that could enable them to arrange car hire or book hotel rooms, for instance.
A closed intranet system would cost significantly less to install on aircraft than one that offered full internet access and could generate better returns and therefore prove more attractive to the airline. It would also be less technically challenging. Full on-board internet access would also be much slower than what most users would be used to in their homes or offices.
Ryanair told the Irish Independent that it "doesn't comment on rumour or speculation".
"We are actively working on a wi-fi service, but currently, the capex and operating costs (roaming charges) are prohibitive and until we can reduce these costs to economic levels, we don't intend to proceed," it added.
Aer Lingus is about to formally launch wi-fi internet access on its long-haul fleet. That solution is provided by LiveTV, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of US carrier JetBlue, with which Aer Lingus has a codeshare agreement.
But that system – which has had teething problems – requires equipment to be installed externally on the aircraft, resulting in a small increase in drag and consequent fuel burn. It also costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to install – multiples of what a closed, intranet system would cost, meaning a longer payback time.
Fuel burn is a major concern for Ryanair. Based on its €1.6bn fuel costs in its last financial year, just a 0.5pc increase in those costs would result in an additional €8m fuel charge for its Boeing fleet.
Last year, aircraft manufacturer Airbus said it had secured certification for a wi-fi system for its A320 aircraft that has no impact on fuel consumption.
Aer Lingus is planning to launch wi-fi on its Airbus A320s short-haul aircraft in 2014.
Installation of a traditional seat-back entertainment system on a long-haul Airbus A330 can cost between $1.5m and $2m, according to an industry source.