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Apr
25

Before You Book Look: Who’s Got Wi-Fi?

The days of picking our aircraft based upon the number of past crashes is so passé. Now we pick our planes based on whether or not our technical devices work. No Wi-Fi for 15 hours? What is this the stone-age? Our computers are now an extension of ourselves- it is where we read, write, listen to music, compose, date, see our kids, our parents, masturbate, and take heavenly photographs.

wi-fi, baby

wi-fi, baby

Currently, about 1,700 planes in the U.S. have Internet access, including the entire fleets of Virgin America and AirTran, Delta Air Lines’ entire domestic fleet, and a sizable number of planes flown by American and Southwest Airlines.

Airlines say Wi-Fi usage-the percentage of passengers paying for Internet access—is picking up because of tablet computers and because more planes have the service. Currently about 8% of passengers use the service, up from 4% at the end of 2010, that likely will reach 10% of passengers by the end of this year, the experts say.

virginamerican

virginamerican

Virgin America, which has both wireless hot spots and standard power plugs on all its 50 planes, says some cross-country flights between tech spots like San Francisco and Boston have averaged 26% of passengers paying for airborne Wi-Fi service, even on redeye flights. Overall, the airline is hitting about a 16% usage rate.

But how much does all this cost? Because It’s gotta something, right? AND someone has to be footing the bill. Research shows that people place the value for in-flight Wi-Fi at about $2 to $5 per session, rather than the typical $10 and up.

Gogo Inc., which provides service for Delta, American, Alaska, Virgin America and others, sets its prices  from $4.95 for a flight up to 90 minutes long to $39.95 for a monthly unlimited pass. Many people end up paying $9.95 for a flight up to three hours or the $12.95 price for either a 24-hour pass or a flight longer than three hours.

its all about the wi-fi

its all about the wi-fi

Southwest Airlines gets its service from Row 44 Inc., and has stuck with its introductory rate of $5 per flight. Southwest’s agreement with Row 44 gives it control over pricing.

Southwest plans to offer targeted discounts to Wi-Fi users, generating both advertising revenue for the airline and giving customers more incentive to pay to log on. Since the airline knows where people are going, it has a captive audience of potential spenders who can be targets for restaurants, stores and amusements.

we need it

we need it

In Europe, Germany’s Lufthansa began bringing Internet service back in late 2010 with a satellite-based service developed by Panasonic It isn’t cheap: One hour costs about $14.50, and a 24-hour pass costs about $26.

Airlines have been split on whether to go with a ground-based system or with satellite-based systems. The ground-based system offered by Gogo, which connects a Wi-Fi hot spot installed in a jet to one of 135 antennas Gogo has on the ground in North America, has been running on commercial aircraft since 2008. Satellite-based systems, such as service offered by Row 44, offer faster speeds, more bandwidth and global coverage over oceans, but aren’t as developed yet.

gogo

gogo

United Airlines said its installation of satellite-based equipment will begin in the second half of this year, with all planes equipped by the end of 2015. JetBlue Airways said it hopes to begin installation of a satellite system.

Gogo says it plans to transition to satellite-based technology and provide international coverage beyond North America. Gogo’s current system provides hotel-like speeds and that’s enough for most people.

check out the wifi-antenna

check out the wifi-antenna

US Airways has also  joined the Wi-Fi expansion. The airline will add Wi-Fi to Airbus A319 and A320 planes as well as Embraer 190 jets and some smaller regional jets. With the A321 planes already fitted with Gogo service, US Airways says 90% of its domestic mainline fleet will be covered by the end of next year.

delta-airlines-offers-wifi-on-its-planes

delta-airlines-offers-wifi-on-its-planes

In addition to its domestic fleet, Delta has equipped most of its regional jets with first-class cabins, since those planes are used on longer routes. Delta sees Wi-Fi as way to attract more high-fare business travelers to its flights.

The most popular site visited on Delta flights: Facebook. Not too buisness-classy thought, right?

download a netflix moive?

download a netflix moive?

Delta offers some Internet access for free, such as shopping on Amazon to passengers- one-third of all Amazon purchases aboard Delta flights are electronic book downloads.  Flight-tracker showing the flight’s progress, speed, altitude and estimated arrival time is also super popular. Avoid being stuck with no Internet, here’s a quick list of some US airlines that have Wi-Fi. Be sure to check your international flights too-it’s insane to be left without, right?

Internet Ready

before you book, look

before you book, look

Here’s a look at Wi-Fi availability on U.S. airlines:

AIRLINE PLANES WITH
WI-FI
PERCENT OF FLEET NOTES
Virgin America 50 100% Also has standard power outlets
Alaska 110 92 All except freighters and combination passenger/freight planes
Delta 557 79 100% of mainline domestic fleet; also equipped 37% of its regional jet fleet
American 321 53 Up to 400 aircraft installed by the end of this year
Southwest 340 49 Includes AirTran, which has 100% coverage on its 140 planes
US Airways 63 19 Airbus A321 planes only; plans to expand to Airbus A319 and A320, as well as Embraer 190 jets and some smaller regional jets by the end of next year.
United 13 2 Available only on p.s. aircraft; going to satellite-based system to provide global coverage.
JetBlue 0 0 Plan to begin installing satellite-based system late this year

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