AirSprint, Canada’s largest provider of aircraft fractional ownership, is no stranger to innovation. As the first to provide fractional ownership in Canada, AirSprint operates the largest fractional fleet of private aircraft in the country. The fleet includes six Cessna Citation CJ2+s, a Citation CJ3+, and five Embraer Legacy 450s – all of which showcase market innovation of another sort: every aircraft offers Wi-Fi service on board.
In early 2013, Cessna had not yet begun installing Wi-Fi at the factory. This made AirSprint an early adopter of inflight connectivity when they added it to three CJ2+s in 2013. However, the manufacturer soon caught up, and every subsequent plane that joined the AirSprint fleet came from Cessna equipped with Wi-Fi. “Having access to the internet is key to doing business and increasingly important for leisure time as well,” explains president and chief operating officer James Elian. “Offering that service to our fractional owners was an easy decision.”
For AirSprint, the challenge of adding Wi-Fi was less about keeping up with the market or with passengers – they were ahead of the game. Instead, they needed a way to offer inflight connectivity to all the fractional owners in a way that added value to owners and their bottom line.
AirSprint found the answer with the unlimited data plans from Gogo Business Aviation. Elian elaborates, “We enrolled in unlimited plans from Gogo and priced the Wi-Fi service directly into our fractional owner annual fees. We wanted to give them the best service without nickel and diming them, so they never see a line item for Wi-Fi – it’s just part of their annual service. They don’t have to think about it, and with the unlimited plan, we don’t either.”
This strategy has paid off. “When we introduced Wi-Fi in 2013, customers didn’t expect it. It was just a nice perk,” Elian continues. “Today, if your Wi-Fi isn’t working or a plane doesn’t have it, people don’t want that plane. Wi-Fi has truly become critical to our customer experience. If there’s no Wi-Fi, people are disappointed.”
Passengers use inflight Wi-Fi in a variety of ways. Flight times average 2 hours, but can be as short as 30 minutes or as long as 7 hours. According to Elian, passengers use Wi-Fi on all of its flights regardless of duration. “Wi-Fi allows them to be more productive and furthers the value of aircraft as a business tool,” Elian comments. Leisure travelers enjoy the service as well, using it personally to catch up at home or entertain their kids. As an AirSprint owner, you are always connected.
A recent incident on an AirSprint flight highlighted these advantages dramatically. While inflight, the passengers were notified via the internet that there was a medical situation with a family member. They told the crew and asked to reroute. The team used the Wi-Fi to communicate with dispatch, have the office clear customs, gain approval from the flight operations team to land at a different airport, make arrangements for rental cars and hotels, and organize all the logistics for the crew at the new destination – all from the air. Within 30 minutes, the flight landed with all necessary approvals and the family was in a rental car on the way to the hospital.
“Without Wi-Fi, no one would have even known about the issue until we landed,” Elian shares. “It made the difference of hours or even days in getting our passengers to their loved one’s side.”
For AirSprint, whether or not to offer Wi-Fi was never the question; the business benefits were clear.
When you're evaluating Wi-Fi, it may seem hard to justify the cost. But when you actually have it onboard, it's a game changer. Don't underestimate the power of Wi-Fi for improving the flight experience, passenger experience, and crew experience.