Product launch: Airline Web access

How many times have you been on a plane getting ready to take off and watched people furiously typing and scrolling away on their BlackBerrys in order to get out one last e-mail before takeoff and they're forced to "Turn off all electronic devices"? Well, to the delight of many a business traveler and Web addict, those days may soon be a thing of the past.

How many times have you been on a plane getting ready to take off and watched people furiously typing and scrolling away on their BlackBerrys in order to get out one last e-mail before takeoff and they're forced to “Turn off all electronic devices”? Well, to the delight of many a business traveler and Web addict, those days may soon be a thing of the past.

This week JetBlue announced it would be offering limited e-mail and instant messaging services for free on Flight 641 from New York to San Francisco next week, making it the first domestic carrier to offer any kind of in-flight wireless service. The airline said that general Web surfing and e-mail attachments won't be permitted due to bandwidth constraints. Services on laptops and handheld devices with Wi-Fi wireless access are going to be limited to e-mail and messaging from Yahoo.

American Airlines also recently announced that in the coming months it would begin testing broader fee-based in-flight Internet services.

The new Virgin America airline already has Ethernet jacks at every seat and will reportedly begin offering Web access in March. Over at TechCrunch.com, Erick Schonfeld writes the way to build an airline is by offering free Wi-Fi.

While the roll out among other airlines may take some time, there are those who believe Web access at 35,000 feet will be the norm in a couple of years.

In a New York Times article Henry Harteveldt, an analyst with Forrester Research said he thinks “2008 is the year when we will finally start to see in-flight Internet access become available, but I suspect the rollout domestically will take place in a very measured way. But in a few years time, if you get on a flight that doesn't have Internet access, it will be like walking into a hotel room that doesn't have TV.”

Offering Web access to flyers is sure to make them happy, but does this mean it's only a matter of time before people are allowed to start using cell phones on planes? Let's hope not.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in

Would you like to post a comment?

Please Sign in or register.