Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A race to the finish line: Which U.S airline will offer internet first?

First came Southwest, followed by American, now Virgin America is in the race...the race to see who offers Internet first onboard their U.S flights. But, we've been here before. Sift through your archived Business Week and Technology mags, and you will locate mounds of chatter about how planes are "ready" for Internet service. Many airlines have taken an interest, some have even tested the product since receiving FCC approval back in 2001. But, now in 2007, still no carrier has actually launched the service. That may soon change.

Now a company called AirCell, partnering with Virgin America (and other airlines), has asserted that Wi-Fi will spring to life sometime in 2008. In a press release, AirCell said passengers can "check e-mail, surf the Web, tap into an office network and stay current on the latest news, using either Virgin America’s Red™ in flight entertainment system or their own Wi-Fi enabled laptops, Smartphones, PDAs, BlackBerrys and portable gaming systems - while in flight."

United, Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest, Alaska and American are all somewhere between considering and testing stages for Internet service on their planes. Hopefully with Virgin America advancing to the head of the pack, this will encourage the other carriers to speed up their techie folks and make the Internet an industry standard in the coming years.