Ryanair to trial wifi, inflight entertainment this year

Passengers board a Ryanair plane parked at Girona airport, September 20, 2012. REUTERS/Albert Gea

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ryanair plans to trial inflight entertainment and possibly wifi on some of its flights this year in its latest attempt to attract business travelers and families who were turned off in the past by its bare basics offerings.

Since a pledge last year by Chief Executive Michael O’Leary to stop “unnecessarily pissing people off”, Ryanair has slashed penalty charges, overhauled its web site, tripled its marketing budget and launched business class fares.

While Ryanair has long been synonymous with levying extra charges for services offered free on more established airlines, it says it may offer both of the new services for free, Chief Technology Officer John Hurley told journalists on Tuesday.

Improvements to its much maligned customer service has helped the airline boost ticket fares and increase passenger numbers by 10 percent this year and sent its share price to an all-time high last week.

Ryanair, which made a failed attempt to rent out inflight entertainment devices a decade ago, will try again with a system that streams films and television shows to customers smartphones and laptops on flights to holiday destinations this summer.

The service, launched by several U.S. airlines recently, may be offered free of charge, subsidized by advertisements for companies operating in the destination city, Hurley said.

Wifi will likely be trialed later this year on routes frequented by business travelers, a key focus for the airline which launched a flexible business ticket last year.

Pricing has not yet been decided, but light use for emails may be free, while heavier usage would be more expensive, he said. The service is unlikely to be offered on all planes.

Reporting by Conor Humphries; editing by Susan Thomas