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Wi-Fi Helps Scandinavian Airlines Save On Roaming And Fuel

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) deploys iPass for electronic manuals and cheaper communications

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) says the use of iPass’ global network of Wi-Fi hotspots has made its staff more productive and has helped to reduce its roaming bill.

The airline currently serves 120 destinations around the world and operates 791 flights a day, meaning much of its workforce is spread out across far-flung locations but need an Internet connection not only to do their jobs and keep in touch with friends and family.

Wi-Fi in the sky

SAS Scandinavian Airlines 1This need for connectivity was highlighted by the company’s project to digitise paper manuals and charts for pilots and replace them with an electronic flight bag containing an iPad which could be constantly updated with the latest documentation.

Additionally, it would also help the airline’s ongoing desire to reduce weight, thereby saving on its annual fuel bill. However to update the iPad, pilots would have to use 3G networks or unreliable Wi-Fi connections, which is expensive and inconvenient.

iPass does not own any Wi-Fi infrastructure itself, but instead provides access to 15 million hotspots through a single log-in and billing system.

Of course, Wi-Fi doesn’t cover everywhere, so pilots and flight crew can still use a cellular connection whenever they want, but with iPass hotspots located in hotels and airports, much of the data consumed by SAS staff is directed over Wi-Fi rather than 3G or 4G.

Universal access

At the moment, around 2,000 employees have access to the iPass network, but SAS wants to make it available to as many people as possible following positive feedback from staff and acknowledging that once you make something available to a certain group of people, more people will want access.

“It’s very hard to keep it limited to a certain group,” said Ashi Hoseini, manager of mobile solutions at SAS. “That’s something we’re working on.”

However, she admits that a lot of IT infrastructure isn’t ready for mobile yet and that it’s a big challenge facing her company.

But in-flight Wi-Fi is something coveted by passengers as well. A number of US airlines already offer such services while British Airways plans to launch Wi-Fi in 2016 once a new S-band satellite called Europasat is live.

Hoseini confirmed that SAS plans to follow suit on some of its long-haul flights in the near future, meaning that crew and passengers can stay connected even in the air.

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