Insiders admit that fewer than 10 percent of all of the people who step on a WiFi-equipped plane are logging on to the Internet.

And most passengers who do log on are doing so free of charge, thanks to an endless series of no-cost trials, sponsored promotions, at-the-gate coupons, and other gimmicks. 

For those few willing to pay, Aircell, which controls GoGo pricing, has cut tariffs furiously and repeatedly since the service went live last year. Aircell’s first price sheet asked passengers to pay $12.95 a session on American Airlines, which only offered GoGo on flights longer than three hours. As the service began appearing on shorter flights, there was a lower price point ($9.95). Then came a $7.95-a-flight option for passengers using GoGo with BlackBerries, iPhones, or other WiFi-enabled mobile devices. A $5.95 price was introduced for the shortest (less than 90 minutes) flights. Then came a daily pass ($12.95) and a monthly pass (30 days of unlimited usage for $49.95, now reduced to just $24.95). via Portfolio


So is it a luxury that most passengers are unwilling to pay for?

Or are most passengers unwilling to pay a full month’s internet fee for just a few hours during a period of time when communication isn’t all that important.

I suspect that moving toward a prepaid minute model, like the cell phone industry, would drive more usage by lowering the initial cost barrier without changing users’ expectations that the service will be free. The US auto industry shows us that if you provide too many incentives over too long of a period, you destroy margins.

Buy your first 120 minutes for $3 and then when you’re in the middle of a movie or streaming music and loving your experience in the plane, keep buying a little bit more at a time. Just like casual games.