When it comes to offering Wi-Fi in the sky, airlines enjoy a situational monopoly. Still, this takes the cake: a Singapore Airlines passenger stepped off a plane, looked at his phone and discovered this bill for $1,171.46:
As the passenger, Jeremy Gutsche, explains on TrendHunter, the eye-popping total came about as result of ordinary internet use — sending emails, uploading documents and such things. But since the airline’s $28.99 sign-on fee only included a paltry 30 MB of data, the overage charges hit hard.
“I wish I could blame an addiction to Netflix or some intellectual documentary that made me $1200 smarter. However, the [company]Singapore Airlines[/company] internet was painfully slow, so videos would be impossible and that means I didn’t get any smarter… except about how to charge a lot of money for stuff. I did learn that,” noted Gutsche.
Gutsche also took to Twitter, urging others to retweet as a gesture against price gouging. The airlines so far has only issued a “we’re looking into it” response.
@jeremygutsche Thank you for the feedback. Our colleagues are looking into this with our service provider, and they'll get back to you soon.
— Singapore Airlines (@SingaporeAir) November 14, 2014
Passengers on Singapore Air and other airlines are unlikely to get serious relief anytime soon, however. For now, the airlines realize they have a monopoly on what is becoming a must-have service, and they are charging accordingly: in my experience flying [company]Virgin America[/company] in recent years, I’ve seen prices double, then triple.
Meanwhile, the airlines are locked into long-term exclusive contracts with Wi-Fi providers like [company]Gogo[/company], which appears to have settled a recent price-gouging suit but has failed to bring down prices. The hope of future competition doesn’t look great either, as [company]AT&T[/company] this week said it would ground plans to build in-flight Wi-Fi.
Out of fairness to the airlines, though, offering internet at 30,000 feet is no easy task. See my colleague Stacey Higginbotham’s helpful explainer: Why your in-flight Wi-Fi is slow and expensive: It’s all about the pipe.