Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) is spreading holiday cheer -- at 40,000 feet!

The country's leading search engine is offering free Wi-Fi on select carriers between now and Jan. 2, perhaps as a consolation prize to passengers miffed over the TSA pat-downs.

Google Chrome is officially sponsoring the sky-high Wi-Fi freebie, as AirTran (Nasdaq: AAI), Delta (NYSE: DAL), and Virgin America have outfitted their entire domestic fleets with Gogo Inflight Wi-Fi.

This isn't the first time that free connectivity is a holiday perk on behalf of a dot-com giant. They've just stuck to terra firma in the past.

Last year, Google offered complimentary hotspots in 47 of the largest airports during the holidays. Not to be outdone, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) partnered with airport and hotel connectivity specialist JiWire for free access, in exchange for performing a Bing search query. Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) seemed lame by comparison, when all it could muster was a free hotspot in Times Square.

This holiday's promotion will be a hit with passengers who travel with laptops and smartphones. It will also be a great way for Big G to promote Chrome. The only downside in this move would come from the perspective of the carriers and their shareholders.

The airline industry has been historically cruel for investors, and carriers have been turning to new ways to drum up incremental fees to offset cutthroat fares. One logical profit center has been charging for access in the air, but now passengers on rival carriers will wonder why they're not getting free Wi-Fi. Those who fly Delta, AirTran, and Virgin next year may also begin to question why only those who flew earlier were able to entertain themselves and have productive flights for free.

Will there be standouts to the premium Wi-Fi, in the same way that Southwest (NYSE: LUV) has developed an entire "bags fly free" promotion? Will "coffee, tea, or connectivity" have no choice but to remain free? After all, this isn't like food that passengers fully expect to pay for on the ground. As more and more establishments embrace free Wi-Fi -- even the mighty Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX) finally went completely free this summer -- won't air carriers have to follow suit?

This is a great gift for everyone but the air carriers. For them, this is fruitcake -- something that they can't really appreciate, can't get rid of, and sticks around forever.

What do you think of free Wi-Fi in the now dot-com friendly skies? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

Google and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection. Southwest Airlines and Starbucks are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Google, and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz curses going with Continental for a holiday trek later this year. 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 has a disclosure policy.