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It's the last thing anyone wants on a lengthy airline trip: a nosy neighbor in the next seat over who just won't stop talking to you. Unless you're rude (I'm not) or clever enough to pretend you're deaf (I'm not) you'll likely be trapped in conversation with them for the better part of your trip. But if you're flying certain Delta (NYSE: DAL ) or American Airlines jets later this year, your problem may be solved.
AMR's (NYSE: AMR ) American this week joined Delta in announcing pay-per-use onboard Wi-Fi for some of its 767 fleet. Start-up AirCell is behind the service, known as Gogo. You may have heard of the company; it was working on an in-flight cellular network when Boeing (NYSE: BA ) was thinking of expanding its similarly styled but now-defunct Connexion service. (The expense of outfitting aircraft proved unattractive.)
Gogo will do nothing for those hoping to use cell phones during cross-country sit-a-thons. Only laptop leaders like me and, well, most every other business traveler in the world will benefit from Gogo. The one restriction: Skype and other voice-over-Internet-protocol (VoIP) services aren't permitted.
Still, it's a big step for a technology that's been stuck in infancy until the prices and equipment hit the necessary sweet spot. Now that they are -- Gogo will charge $9.95 for connectivity on flights shorter than three hours, and $12.95 for all others -- airlines are eager to offer in-flight Wi-Fi. Virgin America has committed to Gogo. JetBlue (Nasdaq: JBLU ) , Southwest (NYSE: LUV ) , and Alaska Airlines (NYSE: ALK ) are testing the service, and UAL's (Nasdaq: UAUA ) United is said to be considering onboard Wi-Fi. Can a national rollout be far behind? I'd bet on it.
What's that you asked, sir? Oh, yes, what do I do. I write. And I need to get back to it now that I'm connected. Enjoy the rest of the flight.
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