In-Flight Wi-Fi: No More Nosy Seatmates

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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Fool contributor Tim Beyers didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article at the time of publication. When he's not typing up articles for Fool.com, you'll find him picking growth stocks for Rule Breakers. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy won't mind if you sit down. What do you do?


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  • Report this Comment On August 26, 2008, at 3:12 PM, Investorlion wrote:

    they have these things called "earphones" which have been known to work since Sony's walkman came out. So you don't need to sound so busy to write this whole article, which you probably will write on airline wifi next time. This article (just like my comment here) is of no use to any investor - does nt talk of a single metric - just goes on and on about seat neighbors. Endnote: Praise and Criticism both occur when you exhibit your work online. Your other articles (the one on buying EP onboard, and some others are useful idea though.)

  • Report this Comment On August 27, 2008, at 3:35 PM, Investorlion wrote:

    Another thing that I did not want to talk about was First Amendment issues in neighboring seats in planes. Of course, this argument existed earlier too with respect to books, magazines and personal DVD players, but the internet just makes it easier. In case you have nt guessed it, I am talking about the xxx domain. CNN has a video on airlines' response on this issue:

    http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/bestoftv/2008/08/26/pn.poli...

    So now the bigger issue is, while you and I might be writing reports, your next seat neighbor could visit random sites and make it uncomfortable.. I think i am going to travel only in private first class suites on A380 from now on.

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