Image: Getty Images

Image: Getty Images

APEX Insight: When it comes to in-flight Wi-Fi, one size may not fit all. While more travelers are gaining a thirst for onboard connectivity, Scoot realizes that not all its passengers are bandwidth guzzlers. The Singapore-based low-cost carrier now offers a “Social Lite” option, with 20 MB of data and no time limit.

What does the size of a Coke have to do with the price of Wi-Fi? In 1948, a bottle of Coca-Cola came in one size, a curvy-glassed 6.5 ounces, measured for the perfect pour. Now, Coke comes in all shapes and sizes (let alone flavors and sugar levels), the latest trend seeing mini-can sales on the rise. Thirst levels vary. And when it comes to the Internet, the same holds true: Not all surfers are bandwidth guzzlers.

Singapore-based low-cost carrier Scoot realized this, and in May of last year, the airline added a “Social Lite” option to its Wi-Fi service packages. Unlike its fixed-price, hour-tiered options, Social Lite offers 20 MB worth of unlimited connectivity “for guests who love to stay constantly connected but only require quick messaging or chatting on the go,” says Steven Greenway, former head of Commercial, Scoot.

Scoot’s decision to introduce the service was prompted by insight gathered from its connectivity provider, Panasonic Avionics. “We knew from feedback that there were some passengers saying that Wi-Fi was too expensive … but they also don’t want to be a very big bandwidth consumer,” says David Bruner, vice-president of Global Communications Services for Panasonic.

“We need to change our packages, our approach and our pricing.” – David Bruner, Panasonic Avionics

With Wi-Fi take-up rates low industry-wide, Scoot’s Social Lite option, like Coke’s mini-cans, aims to capitalize on an opportunity that might have been passed on by consumers unwilling to pay high prices for more than they need. “Just by immediate take-up rate, we can see this was hitting a certain segment of the marketplace that didn’t need the full bandwidth,” Bruner says.

Other airlines have taken note: “We’ve now expanded [a lite service] to a couple more airlines, and eventually plan to take this to all of our airline customers,” Bruner says, also noting, “It’s all a little different from airline to airline.”

Bruner points to a confluence of factors, including more equipped short-haul aircraft and hyper-connected digital natives flying in higher numbers. “We need to change our packages, our approach and our pricing to meet flyers’ needs,” he says.

In addition to unlimited lite surfing, pay-per-use or pay-per-view is among other price models under consideration. The spectrum of variety may not need to be as broad as Coca-Cola’s product portfolio, however. “You don’t want to have too many different options to confuse people, but there’s definitely still some work to do here,” Bruner says.

“Wi-Fi Social Lites” was originally published in the 7.1 February/March issue of APEX Experience magazine.

Katie is a contributing editor for APEX Media, based in Paris, France.