The government is finally going to announce WiFi based Internet connections on flights, meeting a longstanding demand of both airlines and passengers, reported an English newspaper today.
A senior civil aviation ministry official said his ministry has approached the department of telecommunications (DoT) with the proposal and will make a formal announcement soon. “The DoT has already said (informally) the proposal is possible to implement,” quoted Economic Times.
DoT allots spectrum, or airwaves, capacity to operators to provide telecom and broadband services. In India, only foreign airlines such as Emirates, Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines offer Internet connectivity on international flights.
Like the use of mobile phones onboard even in flight mode, Wi-Fi and other technologies require regulatory clearances. Airlines typically provide Wi-Fi services by installing on board planes a server that hooks up with a ground-based mobile broadband network or links to satellites.
The number of commercial airplanes globally with Wi-Fi, cell service or both is expected to more than triple over the next 10 years to 14,000, with Asia spawning most of the growth, according to IHS, a research firm.
For airlines, desperate for new sources of revenue because of their wafer-thin margins, Wi-Fi will be a possibly lucrative service to sell. But globally, the service hasn’t been a huge money spinner for airlines because equipping fleets with Wi-Fi, especially via satellites, is costly and few carriers have found a profitable way to cover costs.
I will drop here a bombshell. I know this might get many run away from the airport runway. No wonder, these days with delight we travel by air pretty often. Usually, we load ourselves with expensive personal items. Well, before we check-in, we do hand over all our precious luggage to the Airlines. Do you know what might happen if your bag containing a great many personal items gets lost in the transit? You will be very disappointed to know this. You might probably be paid just puny Rs 2000/- to Rs 4000/- as “compensation” —- almost like the cost for a bagful of “potatoes”, please mind, cost of the expensive bag excluded. This amount also comes to you only after putting in much effort. Who will compensate for your personal luxury items in the bag? Practically no one.
It was a nightmare for my friend Mr. Sharma (name changed..) whose bag was lost by GoAir airlines on 11 May 2018. He journey was from Bagdogra to Guwahati. And it is still a nightmare for him since he lost a small laptop which was inside the bag. More than other items, the loss of a laptop with its invaluable data has devastated him.
Since that fateful day, he has written more than 10 times to the Civil Aviation Ministry, New Delhi. But all futile exercise. Don’t ever trust any public grievance offices from New Delhi, they don’t even pick up the phone calls. For Mr. Sharma, the only achievement after so much of struggle is that the Airlines raised the compensation from Rs 2000/- to Rs 5000. Poor Mr. Sharma thought the Airlines will have a sense of compassion to understand his ordeal. But the language of humanity hardly moves them.
Now let’s evaluate the case other way round. Suppose, Jehangir Wadia, the CEO/owner of GoAir, wants to visit Shillong and puts up at the hotel of Mr. Sharma himself. Suppose Mr. Sharma’s servant lost the baggage of Mr. Wadia? Could Mr. Sharma tell without a sense of guilt to Mr. Wadia that my servant has lost your bags in the first place? What would be the action and reaction if Mr. Sharma would just give Mr. Wadia Rs 2000/- as compensation?
I know Mr. Wadia would go mad and spew fire upon Mr. Sharma. He will also immediately find ways to file a case against Mr. Sharma for his utter NEGLIGENCE. And, I’m dead sure, with the help of competent lawyers, Mr. Wadia would demand the “pound flesh” of Mr. Sharma. So, now come to the point — how could we say that the rich are great people. No, they are not great people who can’t ever sympathize with the suffering of the poor. Their “humanity” within has long been stabbed to death by their greed. Therefore, they can be unsympathetic to other poor people and keep making money. Is the richest man in the world — Jeff Bezos, owner of AMAZON, not now being heavily criticized for being unusually unkind to his own employees? He has been blamed for “chaotic conditions” in the workplace, utter lack of occupational safety and low wages. Hope you can figure out the usual character of rich men from here.
Or else poor Mr. Sharma’s letters of grievance would have been heard immediately as those business companies promptly respond the calls from prospective customers. Alas, now Mr. Sharma has no option but to face the ordeal of the major loss.
Oh dear regular fliers, so don’t be under the illusion that you are in a “democracy”. You, in fact, are literally in the regime of “capitalism”. Laws are made to save “Shylocks of the modern times”. All poor citizens have to slog and beg around for survival.
Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter: @SGewali.