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.
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
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
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.