Anil Sondhi, Executive Director, Materials Management and Information Technology at Air India told the publication that they are currently in discussions with various agencies, including the Geneva-based in-flight Wi-Fi service provider OnAir and will take a decision on it in the forthcoming months. Earlier in January, there were also reports of Air India approaching French Multinational Thales to help set up WiFi service on its flights.
Users will apparently be able to use this service for basic Internet functions like accessing their email, Facebook and Twitter among others. However, Sondhi declined to disclose the International routes on which this service will be available or the pricing of this service, although note that in-flight WiFi services tends to usually be super expensive in our experience.
OnAir mentions that the prices for Internet access are set by the airline itself, hence varies for each airlines. Singapore Airlines offers time-based plans starting at $11.95 per hour, while Thai Airways International offers volume-based plans starting at $4.50 for 3MB.
US airline JetBlue charges $9 per hour for high speed internet service for real time video streaming. Others such as Saudia offer it free only for premium and business class passengers, for fear of congestion for the entire aircraft. Aggregators such as GoGo also offer time-based prepaid Wifi cards starting from $16 which can be used in cabins of about 10 US based carriers.
Domestic Flights? Air India will however be not able to offer this Wi-Fi service in domestic flights due to archaic government regulations that prohibits use of WiFi and mobile connectivity during a flight. The company was reportedly planning to request both the home and telecom ministry to lift this ban, although there has been no further updates on this development since then.
Privacy risk? It is also worth noting that in-flight Wi-Fi providers like GoGo are required to follow the wire-tap provisions defined by the U.S laws to aid the government in tracking users when required. This may be applicable even to Air India passengers travelling to the U.S if the airline chooses one such provider complying with U.S laws.