Inside the Gogo Network Operations Center – Photo: Blaine Nickeson | AirlineReporter
As a frequent flier, the novelty of in-flight internet has (mostly) worn off for me. After a full day of presentations, tours, and demonstrations at Gogo, I can promise you that I’ll never take it for granted again. Gogo invited me as part of a group of journalists from both the travel and tech sectors to take part in a day-long “all access” event at their headquarters, near Chicago O’Hare airport.
Gogo is the largest provider of in-flight connectivity, with over 2,000 commercial planes equipped and 6,000 business jets. Originally known as Aircell (and a lot of equipment I saw still had that name on it), the company was founded in 1991 to provide in-flight telephone access. In 2008, Gogo launched in-flight broadband on their first commercial flight, and our lives as fliers has never been the same.
Gogo announced today significant new technology upgrades that will boost the speed and enhance the reliability of their in-flight wifi service. These upgrades will be rolled out first with Virgin America (VX) in 2014, who also happened to be the first customer to introduce Gogo service fleet-wide, and the first to implement the enhanced ATG-4 high-speed service.
The essence of the new technology is a refined antenna that utilizes a “GTO” protocol (or “Ground-to-Orbit”). This system will build upon Gogo’s existing ground-based antennas to utilize multiple satellites for enhanced speed and reliability. Gogo claims upwards of 60 Mbps speeds to planes running their service. That’s up to 20x faster than what you can expect on most planes equipped with Gogo right now.
Another benefit of the new antenna is that it can communicate with multiple satellites at once, which increases stability. If one connection fails, another can pick up the slack. This will hopefully prevent what happened on my last Gogo-equipped flight; a 20-minute loss of coverage in the middle of writing an AirlineReporter.com story.
Most times I can’t stand commercials. Of course this doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a good commercial when I see one. GoGo, which provides WiFi service on airlines, has started an advertising campaign starring Trav Lehrman (say it out loud and you should get it). GoGo describes Trav as “an eccentric new spokesperson,” but I would probably say he is a bit uncouth, but still likeable.
Trav is going to be a part of a bigger advertising campaign by GoGo that will use radio, airport based advertising, online display and video ads, and social media. GoGo is also holding a contest where you can win thier internet for life and $10,000.00 — that will buy a lot of stuff you don’t need from the SkyMall catalog.
GoGo is going all out with Trav. Not only is he in video, but he also has his own website and Twitter feed. If you want more of Trav, no worries. He has starred in more than one video.
Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-800 taking off from Anchorage, AK.
Airlines adding wi-fi to their fleet is nothing new. But Alaska Airlines announcing they will be adding GoGo Inflight for their Wi-Fi service is exciting since: #1 They were testing Row44 and decided to go with GoGo instead and #2 Alaska is my hometown airline (based in Seattle), I fly them often, and I love having the internet at 30,000 feet.
Alaska has been testing Row44’s satellite-based internet service for quite sometime now. Row44’s main customer is Southwest Airlines. Many thought Alaska would go with Row44 since they have flights to Hawaii and remote areas of Alaska where cell towers, needed by GoGo, do not exist.
Why is Alaska willing to forgo service on all their routes to go with GoGo? A few reasons. First GoGo equipment costs less and takes less time to install on aircraft. This would mean a lower investment at the beginning and not as much lost revenue due to aircraft not being able to fly during installation. Also GoGo is installed on many different airlines all over the US already and has proven itself as a viable service.
GoGo, attempting to get Alaska’s business, has agreed to expand its network into Alaska, however flights to Hawaii will still have no internet (but heck those passengers are going to Hawaii…nice tropical, warm Hawaii. They can deal with no internet).
To get FAA certification, one Boeing 737-800 will get GoGo installed, then the service will be installed fleet-wide.
Mary Kirby, with Flight Global’s Runway Girl, also has another opinion on this choice. She asks if Southwest and Row44 might have some arrangement in the works, which would have either delayed installation of Row44 into Alaska’s aircraft or Southwest might invest in Row44 and partly own the company. Only time will tell!
“You’re crazy!” That’s the most common reaction I get from non-AvGeeks after describing in detail one of my typical “plane crazy” trips. Unlike a normal person, my travel tends to focus not on the destination, but the journey. That is, the airlines, airplanes, airports, and last but most certainly not least: hap-hazard routing in an effort to add the most diversity to my route map. I just completed one such trip, which I affectionately referred to as my #AirlineSampler.
Planning for this 6k (5,966) mile trek began when I learned United would briefly return a 787 to domestic service. What began as a trip to fly on my first 787 quickly escalated into a cobweb of lines I’d lay across the Great American West (for Missourians, everything west of the arch is west). The trip ended in just under four days, having flown with five airlines and visiting eight airports along the way. Better yet, these would be my very first trips with three of the airlines.
A United Airlines’ Boeing 787-8 – Photo: Mal Muir | AirlineReporter
The experiences I had over this long weekend were both incredible and eye-opening. I want to have enough “runway” as it were to discuss my thoughts on each of the airlines, so we’ll spread these out across a number of posts. At this point, it’s important to note these reviews will be from the perspective of a frequent flier who purposefully chooses Southwest over the other guys most times. I’ve written extensively about my love for Southwest so, for the most part, I’ll leave them out of this series which was focused solely on getting out and exploring the what airline diversity remains in the US. For continuity, I’ll note where I used Southwest for re-positioning and leave it at that.