While Wi-Fi service has improved measurably for the business and leisure traveler over the last few years, there were still a number of locations that lacked hot-spots. While most airports throughout the US have been on board for a while, we were still missing access on that most critical leg of our trips, namely at 300,000 feet above the ground.
Well, all that's changed this past year when passengers with wireless laptops, smartphones and portable electronic devices are now able to surf the Web - access online music, games, podcasts and Webcasts - send and receive email and connect to private networks - while flying the friendly skies.
On May 25, Alaska Airlines is the latest US airline to launch a Wi-Fi service on six of its airplanes flying on the mainland through the end of July. And the service is free until August 1, when the airline will be charging a minimum of $4.95 per flight -still considerably below what some of the other airlines are offering.
While the service will initially be installed on six of the airline’s 737-800 aircraft, the subsidiary of Alaska Air Group Inc. said it plans to have its entire fleet equipped with Aircell’s Gogo inflight Internet service by year's end.
Alaska Airlines joined Southwest in rolling out onboard WiFi across its entire fleet, something that other US carriers such as American, Delta, United, AirTran, Virgin America and others are now embracing.
In a recent post I wrote about 'inflight entertainment,' titled 'Which Airline Will Be The First To Offer Passengers Inflight iPads," bluebox Ai announced that they will be rolling out customized iPads, but would not reveal which airline(s) would be the first to offer it as an inflight service. In a What Airline(s) Will Become iPad's Early Adopter POLL? attached to that blog, the public (as of this posting) seems to think that Virgin Atlantic, not Alaska Airlines would take that honor with a 26.3% to 2.6% vote lead.
The in-flight entertainment available on the iPad would include custom designed apps for various airlines, games, eBooks, magazines and other third-party apps made available through the iTunes App Store. If you know which airline will be the first to offer the iPad as part of their inflight entertainment system, take a moment to vote in our POLL.
In Europe, inflight communications have been slower to take off. In March, budget carrier Ryanair was forced to put its inflight cellphone program on hold after only a year following problems with its telecommunications supplier. Earlier this year, Oman Air became the first airline to offer mobile phone service and broadband Internet on a long-haul flight.
And for those travelers that have to endure flight delays with airlines a good amount of the time, you might want to know which airline equipped with Wi-Fi has the fastest download speed to date. In February, Gizmodos' Mile-High Club conducted a study with their readers and based on their feedback, it appears that Delta Airlines can get you connected the quickest!
(Side note: Gizmodo, one of the Internet's top gadget blogs, jokingly came up with their version of a Mile-High Club, as a means for their readers to test out in-flight Internet speeds while taking silly pictures of themselves!)
Gizmodo Mile-High Club Member!