A few days ago I was on a Chicago-Seattle flight on Alaska Airlines and was surprised to hear an overhead announcement about Bank of America sponsoring free wi-fi on the flight. But it came with a catch, the free access applied only to smartphones (notes 1, 2).
While I’m a big user of airborne wi-fi on my laptop, there isn’t much I want to do on a smartphone connection at 35,000 feet. But my curiosity got the best of me, so I gave it a shot and found the free connection was delivered as promised. I had simply to type in my email address, agree to the terms and conditions, and hit the big blue button (see first screenshot).
It didn’t take me long to figure out why BofA was being so generous. The second page of the sign-on process included a full-page ad for the bank’s Alaska Airlines affinity card (see second screenshot).
My take: Sponsored wi-fi is an effective way to reach the lucrative smartphone-carrying market. But the credit card application user experience was flawed. The bank dumps the whole app and disclosures onto a single mobile webpage, which required scrolling down about eight screens’ worth of info (see screenshots 3, 4, and 5). And the fonts were way too small to engage most users.
If BofA were to build a proper mobile-optimized credit card application form, they’d likely increase app volume two- to three-fold. In the meantime, the bank should add an option for the user to request a full-sized app to be completed later on their laptop.
1. First screen of free wi-fi promotion on Alaska Airlines (7 Aug. 2011)
2. BofA credit card solicitation on page 2 of the login process
3, 4, 5: The rest of the mobile application (click to enlarge)
Note: This shows only the beginning of the disclosures; the full text ran several more screens down the page.
1. I didn’t test it, but I assume it would have been free on the iPad as well.
2. I believe they said the offer would continue through the month of August.