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.