That bump on the back of the Southwest Boeing 737 gives Row44 internet to the aircraft.
Recently I got a call on my phone where I didn’t recognize the number, so I decided not to answer. Then they called again. Okay, fine — it might be something important so I answered and it turned out to be my friend Nick. Wait a second; #1 why is he calling with a number I do not know and #2 he is flying on Delta Air Lines from Minneapolis (MSP) to Seattle (SEA), how is that possible? Even though airlines and internet providers have tried to ban talking via phones on airliners, there are still pretty easy ways to get around it.
Earlier Nick and I had been talking about VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) and I was explaining how you cannot have a phone conversation while flying — he was all too happy to prove me wrong. This is by no means a “how-to” story and I am not going to explain how he did it, since I am against people talking via their phone on planes. However, I can say it was nothing complicated and anyone with a smart phone could and an internet connection could replicate it.
So, it was possible to use GoGo Wi-Fi (internet provider on Delta and other airlines) to talk on the phone and I wondered what policies airlines and internet providers had in place to stop passengers from doing things they should not (phones, porn, etc).
I first spoke with Steven Nolan with GoGo Communications and he explained, “We do restrict VOIP services and at the request of our airline partners, we also restrict access to some web sites.” One of the big challengers is technology is always changing and it can be difficult to know all the “bad” sites and smart phone applications. What happens when someone, like Nick, finds a loophole? Well, talking to multiple airlines, this doesn’t seem to be a big problem.
Virgin America’s Abby Lunardini explained that they block VOIP and have not had any major issues with passengers finding their way around it. Alaska Airlines also bans VOIP for passengers on their GoGo internet. Even though they haven’t had a lot of issues, the flight crew are trained to enforce the airline’s policy. “Should a customer get around the VOIP blocking, our flight attendants would be prepared to enforce our policy which prohibits voice calls of any kind inflight,” Alaska Airline’s Bobbie Egan explained to AirlineReporter.com.
Row44, another airline internet provider, that can be found on Southwest Airlines and Norwegian Air Shuttle helps airlines in similar ways. They provide airlines software that allows them to choose what sites they want to block. “We allow our airline partners to decide whether to use this option and which sites to block,” Row 44’s chief commercial officer, Howard Lefkowitz explained over email. Row44’s airline customers are easily able to add new sites that are deemed to be a problem since new technologies are always emerging. “The back-end system supporting Row 44’s broadband entertainment platform adapts quickly and can immediately add new sites (VoIP services or other types of websites) to the list of blocked content in-flight. But this will be a decision for our airline partners.”
So does this become a game to beat the internet providers and the airlines? No, at least it shouldn’t. Public opinion in the US is pretty split on allowing in-flight conversations. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) bans cell phone usage in the US and it is still against airline policy. Nick was a good passenger and kept our conversation short, even though he supports passengers being allowed to talk on their cell phones on a plane.
What are your thoughts? Other airlines around the globe let passengers talk on their cell phones with little to no issues are Americans ready?
Taken right now. Glad I got a mini-laptop and yes that is an "adult" drink, but I am sitting up front & it's free! Reading a sweet blog.
Currently flying at 30,000 feet on an AirTran flight from Atlanta to Milwaukee and back home to Seattle. I love flying and I love the internet. Having the internet while flying is awesome.
I have spent the last two days in Atlanta at AirTran’s Atlanta Corporate Center, where flight attendants are trained. Sorry I haven’t had any new blogs (am going to work on a few while flying), but I ended up with a lot less free time than I expected.
However the things I have experienced, and the people I met were amazing. I have always respected the job flight attendants do, but my respect has gone to a whole new level.
I plan to be working on a few blogs about the experience over the weekend and post them next week. Thanks for everyone who was following me on Twitter and a thanks to AirTran for hosting me and being very welcoming.
Ok we are starting our decent into MKE, so I better post the blog!
connect | web | twitter | facebook |
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!
connect | web | twitter | facebook | Image: Bob Butcher
That’s right! 24/7, comedian Mark Malkoff will be hanging out on an AirTran plane, travelling to about 12 cities per day, sleeping, eating — even washing himself on an airliner for thirty straight days. The beauty? He has a fear of flying.
Not only does he want to conquer his fear of flying, but he is also trying to break the Guinness record for continuous flight. And since AirTran has WiFi, Mark is able to relate his journey through his website and on his Twitter account.
His great adventure started this Monday and will go to the end of the month. I wonder if he is able to earn frequent flier miles through Airtran — I will try and ask him — stay tuned.
Update: Mark’s response: “I hope so!”
Update2: He has earned so many miles he got a big Elite airmiles card.