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!
Flying non-rev on an Alaska 737-900ER….. hopefully
My real day job is a travel agent, and I have performed this job (with different companies) for the last 10 years. I have spent those 10 years planning and organizing other people’s vacations. When I make a booking for a client, it means that when they go on vacation and there is no stress for them. From the moment that they wake up on the day they leave, until the day they return, all their bookings are handled.
Being an AvGeek helps with this job, so much so that I thoroughly enjoy finding the best routing and deals for people, and I have to admit, while I spend all that time doing other people’s vacations, I can spend as much time planning my own. This planning phase to me is as much fun as going on vacation (sad, I know). So how is it that I found myself, the ultimate vacation planner, going on a weekend away with no plans?
Well, a friend of mine had access to some buddy passes and there were due to expire before the end of June. What does one do with expiring non-rev buddy passes? You use them, of course!
I had never flown on a standby ticket before. Sure, I have tried to stand by for a flight change or something similar, but never have I entered an airport for a flight without at least some form of seat for my journey. My friend told me that rather than commit to any plans for the weekend, we would pick a general destination and then as soon as we knew we had a seat on the flight, we would only then book a hotel, car, etc. I was about to become the person I dreaded the most in life — an on the fly kind of guy!