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In-flight WiFi is coming to the friendly skies

We live in a connected world -- some may say that we all are too connected when it comes to electronic devices. American Airlines is looking to satisfy our cravings for "all access anywhere" with in-flight WiFi beginning this summer.

Southwest is partnering with Row 44 to provide high-speed satellite Internet access. The airline will equip four of its aircraft with the service starting in summer 2008.

"Southwest Airlines is pleased to announce its partnership with Row 44, and we intend to deliver the highest bandwidth available to commercial airlines in the United States," said Southwest Senior VP of marketing Dave Ridley. "Southwest's selection of satellite technology will offer a more robust experience for more Customers per aircraft versus other solutions available in the marketplace. Southwest is looking for the best solution for our Customers not only for Internet e-mail access, but for additional in-flight entertainment as well."

American Airlines will first roll the service out with its Boeing 767-200 airliners. These large aircraft typically make long, cross-country flights. After the initial test phase with the 767s, American Airlines will slowly add WiFi to its entire fleet.

The costs for in-flight WiFi are expected to range from $10 for short flight and up to $12.95 for longer, cross-country flights.

The high-speed Internet will be provided by AirCell. According to AirCell, the cost of providing Internet connectivity to a single aircraft is $100,000 USD and adds roughly 100 pounds to the airframe. The equipment can be installed overnight by airline crews.

Southwest and American Airlines are not alone in their testing, however. JetBlue is trialing in-flight WiFi with a single Airbus A320 aircraft dubbed "BetaBlue." JetBlue's service is also provided by AirCell, but it will not charge customers for connectivity.

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By AmbroseAthan on 1/23/2008 2:17:38 PM , Rating: 3
My final in Strategic Planning 401 (final college course) was theoretical consulting for Continental Airlines (3 years ago) using actual market conditions (not a case study). As part of this we look into wireless internet as a possible method to help Continental Airlines' bottom line about 2 years ago, and it then became our final recommendation.

Each plane for Continental made about 3 to 4 trips each day (the 3-4 hour flights). With what we believed to be a conservative estimate of about 10 people per trip, at the time we based it on business travellers using it; today you could expect more people to use it I suspect.

If that carried out, and we averaged 3.5 flights per day, they make back the upfront $100,000 in less then a year; aproximately 9-10 months. After that it just becomes maintance costs and profits.

Honestely when we did the math, the only reason to not implement this was due to FAA concerns about the wireless signals being used.

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