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And the next big thing? Try surfing in the air

By Wang Wen  (China Daily)

11:14, July 01, 2013

A Boeing787 Dreamliner aircraft introduced by China Southern Air Holding Co. Some main Chinese airlines are itching to offer an in-flight WiFi service, although they are still waiting for official approval. [Photo / Provided to China Daily]

Air passengers are not satisfied with spending their journeys on just eating, sleeping, watching screens and reading.

A survey involving 1,000 Chinese passengers shows that 83 percent of the respondents would like to pay for an in-flight WiFi service. The percentage is up to 90 percent among those aged between 25 and 34.

"We are not surprised about the huge demand for an in-flight WiFi service, because we noticed people are accustomed to keeping in touch with each other wherever they go," said Bao Yi, general manager, China, at Skyscanner Ltd, a global travel search site that released the survey report.

Zhang Jing, a 30-year-old office worker in Beijing, went to Hong Kong on a business trip in early June and sent a proposal to her client before she boarded her flight.

Her client replied with some changes that she was unable to access until finding a WiFi service in Hong Kong. It meant she had to work late into the night.

"If the flight offered a WiFi service, I would not have needed to work overtime after sleeping for three hours in the air," said Zhang.

Also the Internet will make the journey in the air more colorful for lonely travelers, she added.

Some main Chinese airlines are itching to offer an in-flight WiFi service, although they are still waiting for official approval.

Air China Ltd, China's flag carrier, may launch its first flight supplying an in-flight air-to-ground WiFi service in one or two months, said an official from the company who declined to be identified.

The facility is already well prepared now and the carrier is just waiting for approval from the authorities, he said.

If it is approved, Air China will be the first Chinese airline offering an in-flight air-to-ground WiFi service.

Hainan Airlines Co Ltd, the fourth-largest airline in China, conducted a test flight with an online surfing service in February. The company is also waiting for the approval of the authorities.

China Eastern Airlines Ltd also equipped a Boeing 737 aircraft in September 2012 with the technology.

In-flight air-to-ground WiFi services are not rare among foreign airlines. The service is a weapon for airlines to compete with each other.

Air France-KLM Group started to test a WiFi service on its two Boeing 777 aircraft working on long-haul routes in May.

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