I am currently on a special media promotion AirTran Boeing flight over 10,000 ft in the air while posting this, not even sure where we are flying to (but that is ok, because we have the internet to entertain me). That’s right folks, welcome to the next generation of airline amenities.
AirTran Airways is working with Aircell’s Gogo Inflight Internet to upgrade all 136 of their Boeing 737’s and Boeing 717’s by mid-summer to have wi-fi service. Having this service on every flight, frequent fliers don’t have to wonder if their flight will have internet or not. After hitting 10,000 feet, you can open your laptop or turn on your wi-fi enabled phone and be taken to the Gogo page where you can use your credit card to get access to the service. It takes less than 3 minutes to get set up and logged on to the internet and it isn’t slow. Talking with Thomas Weigman, Executive VP with AirCell, he stated it is a 3G network able to easily handle up to 80 laptops with no problems (a more extensive interview about the future of airline internet will be posted in a later blog entry).
Pricing isn’t too bad either. $7.95 for handhelds, $12.95 for over 3hr flight, and $9.95 for less than 3hrs. Considering how much more productive you can be, that is quite the deal!
This should be the start of a new trend. The concept of Wi-Fi has been around for a few years and it is about time for an airline to dive in headfirst. With business travellers, people wanting (or needing) to check their email constantly, or for something to cause some distraction, this is a perfect solution.
Kevin P Healy, the Senior VP for AirTran’s Marketing and Planning reassured me that AirTran is blocking certain sites, like porn, and Skype-type sites. Meaning you won’t have to hear someone yelling into their laptop during your 5hour flight across country. When asked about if there are any policies in place for when AirTran might shut off the internet (ie an emergency situation), Mr. Healy stated that there are none currently in place, but it is up to the Captain to make that decision and he has a switch in the cockpit to shut down the internet.
Although new and exciting, it seems about time to be able to access the internet from a plane, when I can access it almost anywhere now-a-days on the ground.
This puts an end to the everyflight.com advertising campaign, from which AirTran got more than 30,000 suggestions. Although I am a bit disappointed that slip n slides will not be on every AirTran flight, I think having Wi-Fi is much more beneficial.
My 5.5 hour flight back to Seattle leaves early tomorrow morning and man I wish this WiFi was already live on the plane. Oh well, soon enough it will be.
UPDATE:I found out that my flight back home tomorrow WILL have the internet tomorrow! Expect some more 40,000 feet postings.
MEDIA: Lots of pictures of this experience – Today Show video (which was a live feed from the plane – and you can kind of see me in the background with being mostly blocked by the reporter’s head).
MULTI-PART BLOG: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
Wow! They already have it up and running on regular flights?!
This is very cool. That is a fee that I would definitely be willing to pay.
So, you can’t use it below 10,000 feet, but you can use wi-fi the whole time other than that?
That sounds great! I can’t wait to fly Airtran!
I can’t tell you how valuable this will be for business OR personal travel. To be able to set up meetings, get information I’ll need on the ground, make reservations, and check local traffic reports will be invaluable.
I kind of wonder how AirTran can say they will have the first national wide wifi fleet when they are what about 1/2 way through the process? Can’t other airlines beat them? Doesn’t Virgin Airways already have their US fleet wired?
Well either way, I guess it doesn’t matter, the more planes that have it the better for me!
First Virgin is not considered a major carrier and it is most likely another airline won’t have 100% wifi before AirTran. However, even if there are others, you have to hand it to AirTran for keeping it secret and making this big announcement.
Congrats on this great adventure. I was already impressed with the seat back video screens on Northwest and Continental so this seems super high tech to me. Can’t wait to try out AirTrans!
Nice. Speed to market is so important with this edge, and you have to give it to Air Tran. The ability for full deployment will likely get some initial marketshare gains… it will now be up to their customer service to win loyalty during this competitive advantage, as this USP will surely be shortly lived. Thanks for the story.
I’m impressed, it’s not only a new trend, it’s the futur, good news. Anyway after few year hope to be available for free.
I forgot the “e” – futur(e) and “s” – year(s). Sorry 🙁