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

In order to keep the connectivity free and available for anyone who wants to use it, JetBlue said it decided to go with a narrowband option. Customers traveling on the aircraft can use their Wi-Fi enabled devices to send and receive e-mail messages from their accounts, including Yahoo! Mail, Microsoft Exchange, Gmail, Windows Live and AOL for free. Users can also send and receive Yahoo! instant messages, and customers with Wi-Fi enabled BlackBerry smartphones can access their BlackBerry accounts. Customers can also log onto Amazon.com to shop from the sky.

Southwest Airlines provides Wi-Fi service through Row 44. Prices range from $5 to $8 to $10 for laptops, depending on the length of a flight. Using handheld devices costs either $2, $4 or $6, also depending on flight length.

Only four aircraft have the service at this point, but the airline expects to roll it out to the entire fleet during the next 18 months.

Passengers can't book a flight on a specific Wi-Fi plane, but the airline said it alerts customers via e-mail prior to the flight if their plane will have the service. VoIP calls and inappropriate sites are blocked.

For more information, visit Southwest's Wi-Fi Web site.

United Airlines also provides service through Gogo. 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.

The airline only offers Internet access on a few planes now but is planning to have it fully deployed on the 13 Boeing 757s used for its p.s. branded flights by Nov. 6. (The p.s. flights are the longest North American transcontinental flights offered by United.)

The airline will review the use on those 13 aircraft before deciding to expand the service.

More information about United's service can be found here.

US Airways also plans to provide service through Gogo. 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.

The airline plans to have Wi-Fi service installed on its feet of 50 Airbus A-321s by the middle of 2010.

Once launched, the airline said, customers will be able to check whether Wi-Fi is available on a specific flight by looking for the Wi-Fi icon while booking flights on usairways.com. The airline does not have plans at this point to expand the service beyond those 50 jets. More information about the service can be found at www.usairways.com/wifi.

Virgin America in May became the first domestic airline to offer in-flight Internet service on every flight. The service is provided through Gogo. The cost 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.)

Virgin is providing free service from Nov. 10 through Jan. 15 for all passengers on all flights.

In 2010, Virgin hopes to expand some limited mobile communications to its Red seatback touch-screen entertainment platforms. Passengers would not only have the option to use their own PDA or laptop to log on as they do now, but would also be able to connect remotely via the seatback entertainment screens. Think about the ability to use Twitter and Facebook in your seatback.

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