Internet takes to the skies


After our story on Chrysler offering wireless Internet access in 2009 models (6/26/08 RBR #125), news surfaced that American Airlines has just tested in-flight broadband service from JFK to LAX, and it worked.

The Fort Worth-based carrier and technology provider Aircell LLC say a broader customer trial on flights between New York and San Francisco and between New York and Miami is expected to begin in the next couple of weeks. The carrier is also considering expanding the service beyond its Boeing 767-200 planes, H. Douglas Backelin, American’s manager of in-flight communications and technology told The Dallas Morning News. "I think there will be great reception to the service," he said.

Users will be able to download videos and e-mail, use instant messaging and access secure corporate networks using their laptops or handheld wireless devices, such as BlackBerrys.

Aircell’s "Gogo" service will cost $12.95 for those who log on during flights longer than three hours and $9.95 for shorter flights. Access to American’s Web site, Frommer’s online travel guides and some news headlines will be free.

Gogo will not enable voice-based functions. The system will prioritize the flow of data so passengers downloading movies or large documents won’t keep other passengers from getting e-mail, according to the story.

JetBlue Airways has tested a different system that enables e-mail and text messaging only, and Virgin America is expected to test Gogo throughout its fleet later this summer or in early fall. Southwest Airlines and Alaska Air Group’s Alaska Airlines are expected to test a satellite-based system by Row 44 Inc. this summer.