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How Exactly Does Inflight Wi-Fi Work Again?

By Dennis Jones

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“How exactly does inflight Wi-Fi work again?” contemplated one of the HR consultants on the Krempe engagement. He was the guy who had had the good sense to leave the meeting after the allotted hour, unlike the others, poor saps. They’d stuck around for several hours of conversation and “informal feedback.” Too bad, when it came down to it, all of that advice would most likely not count toward their billable hours.

He would know. He’d been on the team that had answered Krempe’s initial request for HR consulting services. Back at at that time, he’d met the Head of People and Recruiting and the CFO. It didn’t take too long for him to form the distinct impression that this CFO was not going to be cutting any checks for meetings held “off the clock.”

That was certainly Krempe’s right. A lot of clients were similarly parsimonious. Funny enough, they were the ones that had the worst employee engagement issues – go figure. But that kind of penny pinching would impact his quarterly quota. Hence, he had signed up for another project. Too bad it basically overlapped with the Krempe engagement. Now, he was stuck on a plane, not exactly certain how its inflight Wi-Fi worked. And he needed it to work badly.

Well, it’s not like he hadn’t logged enough air miles to know how inflight Wi-Fi worked in general. After all, he was one of the consultancy’s most prolific, because absolutely mercenary, consultants. Come to think, he wasn’t really sure how he had gotten into the Human Resources racket, but those thoughts were best kept to himself.

He traveled constantly, all over the country and, increasingly, all over the world, as a result of the company’s growing global presence. But every airline seemed to have its own distinctive, often inscrutable, way to access inflight Wi-Fi services. And it was pretty difficult for him to keep track of them all. Inflight Wi-Fi was a must for him, so he booked his flights based on whether the carrier had inflight Wi-Fi and hoped for the best. But sometimes, hoping wasn’t enough.

Often, the airline would advertise having inflight Wi-Fi, but the plane he was flying wouldn’t. More likely, he’d need his corporate credit card information to sign in, and it would be stuck in an imprudently checked bag or in the upper head bin. He could use his own card, but then he’d have to track those charges, so as to expense them later. That was a total pain. At present, he was stuck on some sort of captive login page. And boy, did he feel held captive, especially now when he didn’t have time to wait around.

He had to get on to his firm’s internal messaging platform for an e-meeting with a managing partner. Too bad, he was already late. Really, really late. Worse still, he wasn’t even at the end of the login process. He still needed to go through to the CAPTCHA page.

What the senior partner could be thinking now, he didn’t even want to fathom. It was then that he had a brief moment of clarity. How much time and energy did he expend every flight trying to connect to inflight Wi-Fi across multiple airlines and providers, across multiple business trips and client engagements? Add it up, and it wasn’t pretty. Plus, it left him less productive and frankly, less engaged. Wasn’t there some way to get online while inflight without going through all of these login steps? Some sort of universal remote for inflight connectivity that had the end-benefit of improving productivity, engagement and, frankly, his mood.