Delta announced this week that it will be rolling out Wi-Fi Internet access across its entire fleet of U.S. planes by the middle of 2009. As Larry Dignan noted, we can expect other airlines to quickly do the same. They won’t be able to resist the urge of having another line item to charge their flyers. Plus, they won’t want to lose customers to Delta over the ability to stay connected in the air.
TechRepublic ran a poll this week asking “Will Delta’s Wi-Fi service make you more likely to fly Delta?” As of today, 44% said yes.
When I heard the Delta news, my first reaction was “Finally!” Next, I started to wonder about my reading habits. Plane rides are the one time where I tend to read more than just the headlines and a couple lead stories in The Wall Street Journal. I also bring three or four business and tech magazines along and it’s the only time I thoroughly read them. If I could get Internet access in the air, I doubt I would even bring any newspapers or magazines with me on the plane, and I’m pretty confident that a lot of other business travelers would probably do the same.
Air travel is the last place where I regularly read print publications, and since I travel regularly I do a lot reading that way. In the past year, the other place where I did a lot of print reading has changed as well. I used to have a regular stack of magazines on my night table that I would read in the evenings, but I’ve replaced that stack of magazines with a small laptop that I use for Web reading and answering e-mails in the evenings.
I’m not predicting the end of print newspapers or magazines any time soon — not even in the next decade. There are still plenty of die-hards that prefer print reading. But, Wi-Fi on planes could accelerate the current trajectory of decline as business travelers give up their print pubs on airplanes for Web surfing and RSS readers.