Skift Take

Airlines have no trouble getting passengers to use Wi-Fi -- when it's offered for free. The brand benefits would be enormous if JetBlue kept it that way. Other airlines should consider doing likewise.

JetBlue has equipped 36 of its A320 aircraft with its free Wi-Fi service, and CEO Dave Barger said that up to 80% of passengers used the service on some long-haul flights.

The airline doesn’t charge for basic Web-browsing on its new high-bandwidth Fly-Fi service, but expects to detail later this year how it plans to further monetise the product, Barger said. JetBlue already charges $9 per hour for a premium version of the service, Plus, which enables passengers to stream video and download files.

Installation of Fly-Fi on JetBlue’s entire A320 fleet should be completed in 2014, with the E190s to follow, the airline says.

The update on Fly-Fi came today during JetBlue’s first quarter earnings call.

In other news, Barger said he’s “personally disappointed” at the decision by JetBlue pilots to unionise, labelling it a “short-term decision,” but said the move isn’t expected to materially impact the airline’s guidance.

He noted that on average it takes around 32 months for airlines and Air Line Pilots Association bargaining units to reach agreements.

Meanwhile, JetBlue’s ancillary revenue grew 9% year over year to $175 million in the first quarter, according to CFO Mark Powers. That amounted to $24 per passenger.

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Tags: in-flight, jetblue airways, pilots, wi-fi

Photo credit: JetBlue manager of corporate communications Morgan Johnston on a press flight for the Fly-Fi launch. Samantha Shankman / Skift

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