Image: Seth Miller

APEX Insight: Scandinavian Airlines is launching its short-haul in-flight Wi-Fi service this week. The 12Mbps connectivity, provided by Viasat, has been installed on seven aircraft and a full rollout is is scheduled for completion in 2020. SAS’s EuroBonus Diamond and Gold passengers and travelers buying the SAS Plus premium economy tickets will have complimentary access to the service.

Streaming-speed Wi-Fi is now flying over Scandinavia. SAS officially launches its high speed in-flight Wi-Fi service this week, activating satellite connectivity on its single-aisle fleet. The offering features Viasat’s signature 12 Mbps service. Seven aircraft are active today and 30 are expected to be in service within a month. The full narrow-body rollout is scheduled for completion in 2020.

SAS said its criteria for choosing a service provider and designing the service focused strongly on the user experience. Therese Lorenius, the airline’s vice-president, Product and Services, explained that it is not just about the connection but about delivering a means for passengers to be more efficient, delivering a better overall lifestyle. “You can use the quiet office in the air to do your e-mails and chat with colleagues so you can spend more quality time with your loved ones when you get home. Or take the time to relax, reenergize and watch a movie or the news.”

“It is a big investment for SAS. We’re doing this because we believe our customers will appreciate this.” – Therese Lorenius, SAS

The carrier will offer the service for free to its EuroBonus Diamond and Gold passengers as well as travelers buying the SAS Plus premium economy tickets. These are the types of passengers who will benefit most from making that time in the sky matter more. Lorenius continues, “It is a big investment for SAS. We’re doing this because we believe our customers will appreciate this. It is a major strategic effort and will be a competitive advantage.” Those who do not qualify for the complimentary service will pay €4.90 per session.

“We knew that Viasat wanted to give something special to users.” – Gunilla Ait El Mekki, SAS

While SAS is the launch customer for Viasat’s 12Mbps service in Europe, the airline is not new to in-flight Wi-Fi. Entertainment and Connectivity manager Gunilla Ait El Mekki notes that the carrier’s history stretches back to the Connexion by Boeing service and SAS’s long-haul fleet has also been connected since the beginning of the decade. However, the company said it wanted something more robust for its short-haul fleet connectivity. “We have seen, especially in Scandinavia, very high speed internet service in homes. We know from our passengers that they want the service and they want the very best. We knew that Viasat wanted to give something special to users. That’s why we wanted to work together. We can share each others’ experience.”

El Mekki is especially optimistic about extending the benefits of the service to the flight deck and cabin crew as well. “Pilots have been asking us for a long time for connectivity to order fuel, to get weather updates. Cabin crew want to know how passengers will be accommodated when flights are delayed. This is the start of that. We know it is a big investment but this is what SAS needs.” Her team is working with the crew to solicit input and feedback for the services that will be developed and integrated into the iPad applications the crew use today.