Something Special–and Wireless–in the Air

By  |  Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 11:28 am

American AirlinesThis better have nothing to do with April Fools’ Day: American Airlines has announced that it’s going to equip more than 300 planes with in-flight Wi-Fi service, bringing Internet access to most of its domestic flights. The airline will work with Gogo to implement the service. And along with recent announcements by Delta, Virgin, Southwest, JetBlue, and others, it means that a meaningful percentage of the plans flying around this country will eventually be Internet-enabled. (It’s going to take awhile, though, and I predict delays.)

I’m used to news about airlines involving new fees for pretzels and air-sickness bags, so this is exciting stuff. I’ve hankered for connectivity in the air for years, but the only times I’ve actually experienced it were on a test flight using Boeing’s Connexion service (which barely worked) and one flight on a Lufthansa plane with Connexion (right before Boeing killed it).

The Gogo technology only works for domestic routes, but the USA Today story I link to at the top of this post reports that Southwest is experimenting with satellite-based Internet access that would work even on international flights. Which is a little confusing given that Southwest only flies domestically, but maybe some other airline will pick up the service for globe-spanning routes.

It’s obligatory in any mention of Internet access in the air to point out that planes have been one of the last zones where you’re free of Internet distractions, and can therefore relax with a good book, chat with loved ones or friendly strangers, and avoid your boss. It’s all true, and I confess that I’m usually really productive on airplanes, especially on those six-hour flights between the coasts. (It’s a lot easier to write thoughtfully when you can’t check e-mail, engage in instant messaging, or check out blogs.) I don’t care, though: I look forward to the day when I can write to you from 10,000 feet in the air. And I can’t see any scenario when I’m going to opt for an airline without Wi-Fi when one that has it is an option…


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2 Comments For This Post

  1. SVS Says:

    i’m actually reading your article from a Virgin America flight from NYC to SFO over Minnesota and the wireless is amazing. Having used it both ways now I am a convert and would drive to a farther airport to use the service. Love it. Hopefully more will jump on board and realize that $12.95 is within reach for business travelers who are crippled by being disconnected in this very connected age. Thanks for the update!

  2. Spot Cool Tech Says:

    I’d be as happy to see wi-fi on planes as you would. Do you know what sorts of speeds we are talking about here? (The speed of the internet connection, not the speed of the planes).

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