American Airlines is the first commercial U.S. airline to go broadband in the air–the airline currently offers in-flight WiFi on its 767-200 nonstop flights between New York and San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami. The new service, called Gogo, and provided by Aircell, costs $12.95 for these initial flights. At a later date, when the service becomes available throughout the fleet, the cost for flights of three hours or less will be $9.95. Once the aircraft reaches 10,000 feet, users can turn on their WiFi enabled devices such as laptops, smartphones and PDAs, open their browsers and be directed to the Gogo portal page where they can sign up, pay and begin surfing.
To save time in-flight, you can sign up for Gogo at gogoinflight.com before you board the plane. For no fee, passengers can use the system to access American’s Web site so they can check flight information, gates and times, fares and AAdvantage accounts. Once the plane descends lower than 10,000 feet, the WiFi service will automatically shut down. Word from the air so far has been very good with most customers being impressed with the ease of use and connection speed.
And unfortunately, there are those who are already figuring out how to talk via the connection even though the service is not meant for voice communication.
Delta Air Lines has announced that most of their domestic fleet will offer broadband WiFi by the end of 2009. The first half of the year will see 133 of Delta’s MD88/90 planes outfitted for WiFi followed by 200 Boeing 737, 757 and 767-300s. The Gogo from Aircell service, the same as offered by American, will also cost the same. As with other airlines offering WiFi, no word yet if elite frequent flyers will someday get a special deal.
Virgin America also plans to add WiFi in-flight connectivity through Aircell’s Gogo. The Gogo/Aircell system is not satellite-based; instead, it uses antennae on the exterior of the aircraft to communicate with cell towers on the ground.