Greater efficiency and time savings for passengers and crew during inclement weather or itinerary changes
Improved communication between the cockpit, passengers, and dispatch
Increased charter revenue that outpaces monthly Wi-Fi service costs for positive ROI
Provides a competitive advantage when compared to aircraft without Wi-Fi
Fast, reliable service that meets (or exceeds) crew and customers' expectations for high-speed, inflight Wi-Fi
Don Davis Aviation, founded in 1957, provides a wide range of aviation services from its headquarters in Henderson, KY. From FBO to charter services to flight training to aircraft maintenance, management and sales, the family-owned organization continues to fulfill Don Davis’ vision from 60 years ago: give wings to those who dream of flying.
These days, executing on that vision means keeping up with the latest in onboard offerings and technology. When Don Davis Aviation decided to add a new Phenom 300 to its fleet of six existing jets in 2016, they knew that inflight connectivity would add significant value to its charter services. The Phenom's owner, however, required some convincing.
"We tried for years to get the Phnom's owner to put Wi-Fi on his previous jet, a Citation X," shares Jon Becker, chief pilot, director of operations, and third-generation member of the Don Davis Aviation team. "But between installation and monthly service, the numbers seemed overwhelming. He didn't think he needed it for fairly short, 1 to 2 hour flights. But soon, more and more charter requests came in that said 'Must have Wi-Fi.' It became clear that charter customers now require it."
As the requests for Wi-Fi poured in, the owner decided to purchase a Phenom 300 for charter with Don Davis Aviation. The airplane came off the line packaged with a Gogo ATG 5000 inflight connectivity system – Becker and his team just needed to convince the owner to activate it. “He pushed back at first,” Becker laughs. “But now the Wi-Fi is his favorite feature on the aircraft. Once you give them the Wi-Fi password, passengers are checking email, they’re texting… they’re happy.”
Wi-Fi also improves the customer experience when things don’t go as planned. “Before onboard Wi-Fi, changing the itinerary due to weather added hours to the day for our passengers. We couldn’t make any arrangements until we were on the ground,” Becker explains.
With Wi-Fi, we’re in constant communication with dispatch. We’re calling them using our own smartphones, they’re texting us, passengers are emailing dispatch – it’s seamless. We had to make a change recently, and by the time we diverted, dispatch had cars, drivers, and hotel reservations for everyone, passengers and crew. It was fantastic.
Becker admits that before activating their Gogo ATG 5000 system, he was concerned about uptime and unconvinced that inflight connectivity would work as well as on-the-ground Wi-Fi. After almost a year, however, those worries are gone. “I wasn’t sure how often it would work, or more importantly, how often it wouldn’t work,” Becker says. “But we’ve never had an issue – it has never not worked.”
The charter requests with “Must have Wi-Fi” keep rolling in, and Don Davis Aviation is happy to accommodate them. “Once people ride on a plane with Wi-Fi, they don’t go back,” Becker concludes. “In the charter market, an airplane with Wi-Fi will fly significantly more than an airplane without it. I wholeheartedly believe that passengers want Wi-Fi and will pay extra to have it.” In fact, Don Davis Aviation now sees the Gogo monthly service paying for itself in increased charter revenue.
Is Wi-Fi worth it for smaller aviation organizations and charter services? According to Becker, “Absolutely. Once you have it, as a passenger or a pilot, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.”