Passengers can now make friends, chat, send messages, play Farmville, and update their status for free while in flight, making it easier to stay up to date while up in the air. A promotion by Gogo Inflight Internet during the month of February aims to get passengers hooked on the service so they become repeat paying customers every time they fly.
The idea to offer a free month of Facebook seems to be in response to polling data that indicate less than one-tenth of airline passengers use the premium Internet service while flying.
Although the apparent assumption with the Gogo Facebook promotion is that those who travel by air are not familiar with the availability of their service. By advertising it and giving users some free access, the company seems to think more people will become accustomed to it, and thus willing to pay regular fees for access.
On the other hand, Gogo does not seem willing to publicly consider the concept that suggests that passengers do no use the Gogo service because it costs too much. Gogo has monthly service plans for frequent flyers as well as per-flight service fees that can be almost $13 or less.
One analyst quoted by MSNBC suggests that there is also a quality component associated with in-flight Internet service where many members of the flying public seem to think that Gogo has speed and reliability issues that impact its perception of value in light of the price.
After the month of the free trial, the company should have enough data to measure whether their lack of customers was due to a lack of familiarity or not by checking to see if they have a residual increase in sales.
Shooting themselves in the foot?
One tech writer referenced by MSNBC suggests that the free Facebook access promotion might be counterproductive for the airborne Internet service provider. After all, more people will likely try the service while it is free, taxing the capacity of the Gogo infrastructure, making the Internet service sluggish due to bandwidth issues.
Although Gogo seems to be intent on limiting potential service issues by offering free access only to Facebook, the company may risk turning quality misconceptions into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
A foot in the door
Still, Gogo may be onto a good way to prime the cash pump by relying on human nature. After all, once people have their notebook computers up and running on the flight and logged into Facebook, Gogo has its foot in the door because passengers may become less reluctant to shell out the connection fees so they can browse to other sites.
Only seven airlines have the free Gogo Facebook promotion available. These include Virgin America, Alaska Air, Delta, AirTran, US Air, American, and United.
However, those who have to have Twitter or visit other Internet sites will have to pay extra for that service.