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Airlines Experimenting With In-Flight Internet Access

Posted on December 12, 2007 by LCT Staff - Also by this author - About the author

U.S. — Over the next few months, several U.S. airlines are going to be testing Internet service on their flights.

JetBlue Airways will begin offering a free e-mail and instant messaging service on one of its planes, while American Airlines, Virgin America and Alaska Airlines plan to offer broader web access in coming months, probably at a cost of around $10 a flight.

The airlines’ goal is to turn their planes into the equivalent of wireless hot spots once they reach cruising altitude — the services will be unavailable during takeoff and landing. The network can potentially be used as well for communications within the plane, like food and drink orders — something Virgin America already does with its seat-back system.

Though some forms of access have existed internationally, JetBlue will be the first carrier in the United States to offer the service.

JetBlue expects their service to be on the slower side, and potentially glitchy in the short term, which is why passengers won’t have to pay a fee. “Why charge for something that doesn’t work very well yet?” said David G. Neeleman, JetBlue’s founder and chairman.

But other companies are convinced that plenty of travelers will pay for more robust web access. That view is bolstered by a recent survey by Forrester Research that found that 26% of leisure travelers would pay $10 for Internet access on a two-to-four-hour flight and 45% would pay that on a flight longer than four hours.

SOURCE: New York Times

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