Before long, you'll be swapping e-mails and IMs between nibbles of blue corn tortilla chips at JetBlue (NASDAQ:JBLU). The low-cost -- but most certainly not low-frills -- airline is outfitting one of its planes with Wi-Fi access.

If the test goes well, JetBlue will incorporate the offering throughout its fleet. Passengers won't have complete surfing privileges, though -- access will be limited to checking Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) email, sending instant messages through Yahoo!, and lobbing text volleys back and forth on newer Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) BlackBerry smartphones.

Still, it's better than nothing. More importantly, that's just what it will cost you: nothing. JetBlue will make the perk free, just like its selected onboard entertainment from DirecTV (NYSE:DTV) and XM Satellite Radio (NASDAQ:XMSR).

It will be interesting to see how the legacy carriers and smaller regional discounters respond. After all, many airlines have turned to charging customers for little things that once were complementary, like light meals and snacks. It's their way of attempting to offset cutthroat fare wars and pesky jet-fuel prices.

In an ideal world, carriers would be able to charge for online access. Even on terra firma, there are still plenty of places where Wi-Fi access is not free, despite the proliferation of gratis bandwidth. Step into a Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) and you can check out Hear Music videos and song clips or feed your Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone with purchased tunes. Beyond that, though, you'll have to pay for Wi-Fi access.

Passengers won't mind JetBlue going the free route, of course. And other carriers will have to bag their meters, unless they can provide less restricted. Either way, we may soon see the day when a flight attendant rolls a cart up your aisle and offers the ultimate choice: Coffee, tea, or Wi-Fi?

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has enjoyed his flights on JetBlue, though he'll admit to having to settle for legacy carriers on his most recent treks. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool's disclosure policy has earned its wings.