Airlines Add Internet Access: The Definitive Guide to Navigating Airplane Wi-Fi

The price for handheld devices, such as the BlackBerry or iPhone, is $7.95 for flights longer than 1.5 hours. For all devices, the price is $5.95 for flights shorter than 1.5 hours, $9.95 for flights between 1.5 and 3 hours and $12.95 for a single flight longer than 3 hours. Gogo also offers a 24-hour pass on a single airline (AirTran and Delta only) for $12.95 and a $49.95 monthly pass for use on a single airline (AirTran, Delta and Virgin America only.)

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AirTran offers the service on all flights and is still looking into other ways to expand it, although a spokeswoman said there are no plans to announce as of yet.

Certain sites Gogo deems inappropriate are blocked. The service uses ground-based cell towers to connect and sometimes domestic flights will fly over Canada, resulting in a temporary loss of connection.

Wi-Fi on Domestic Airlines

Alaska Airlines is testing a Wi-Fi service right now on one specially-equipped Boeing 737-700 and has plans to expand the service. During the testing period, the service will be free and can be used on laptops, smartphones and other Wi-Fi enabled devices. A pricing structure will be decided after the testing period.

(There are no plans currently to expand the service to sister airline Horizon Air, a regional carrier.)

The service is provided through Row 44, which uses satellites to connect to the Internet. Alaska favors the satellite connection over the cell-phone based connection, in part, because of the limited cell phone reception for flights to Alaska. Row 44 also works over water, theoretically giving Alaska a competitive edge on its flights to Mexico and Hawaii.

Alaska Airlines blocks VoIP, or voice call, service but no other sites. The airline said that passengers are responsible for their own surfing behavior just they are responsible for their magazines, movies and other materials brought on board. Passengers will be required to agree to certain terms of use when they log in, including a commitment to use the system appropriately.

More information about the service can be found on the airline's Web site, alaskaair.com.

The single plane with Wi-Fi has a logo outside of the plane and also has cards in front of every seat with instructions of how to log in. The airline publishes a list of all the flights that specific plane will be taking each day on the right side of its flight status Web site.

American Airlines offers Wi-Fi, also through Gogo, on all 15 Boeing 767-200s used for transcontinental flights, such as New York to San Francisco or Los Angles. American also offers WiFi on about 150 of its MD80s, and the service will be available on the airline's new Boeing 737 fleet. (The airline is replacing older planes with new 737-800s at the rate of about one every 10 days. This will take two years and all will have Wi-Fi.)

The cost of the service ranges from $5.95 to $12.95 per flight, depending on the distance and the type of device used. (See the AirTran listing above for more details.) VoIP calls and pornographic sites are blocked by Gogo.

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