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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Daily Report: Hotels, Airports and Airlines Struggle With Demand for Wi-Fi

Travelers hitting the road with their mobile electronic devices have three questions about staying connected away from home: will there be Wi-Fi, how much will it cost and how well will it work? Increasingly, it is that last question that matters most, reports Susan Stellin on Wednesday in The New York Times.

Hotels, airports and airlines are struggling to keep up with customers streaming movies on their tablets and hosting online meetings on their laptops, with varying degrees of success. While hoteliers and airport authorities have been fighting the bandwidth battle for years, airlines are still installing Wi-Fi on many aircraft and are already confronting challenges.

Travelers who want Wi-Fi in the air cannot always tell if a plane will have Internet service when they book their tickets. Prices for service are still evolving, and the quality of the connection does not come close to matching what most people are used to on the ground.

“No matter what the system is, none of them right now are showing the ability to keep up with passenger demand,” said Mary Kirby, editor in chief of Airline Passenger Experience magazine. “I’ve heard complaints about every single system.”

Acknowledging the technical hurdles involved in delivering Internet service to a plane traveling 500 miles an hour, Ms. Kirby said airlines and their connectivity partners needed to better manage passenger expectations.

“It’s time for the industry to say, ‘Here’s reasonably what you can expect, and it’s not an at-home experience,’ ” she said. “A passenger should expect to be able to use social media and check e-mail. But you’re not going to be able to send e-mails with really big files, and you’re not going to be able to stream video.”