Virgin Atlantic eyes in-flight Internet

Aircell, which currently provides in-flight Internet to North American operators over an air-to-ground (ATG) link, is working closely with a major player in the Ku-band satellite sector on an overseas solution.

Okay, regular RWG readers already know this. But did you know that a technical trial could occur “in the next year or so”, likely by the end of 2010? That’s what Aircell CEO Jack Blumenstein recently told Runway Girl.

“We still have a lot of questions,” admits Blumenstein. “Obviously the fact that Row 44 is up and flying is an indication of progress particularly on the antenna front.”

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He says Aircell has a great working relationship with its airline partners. Among these, Virgin America has started to turn up the tap, with almost half its Airbus A320 family fleet installed with Aircell’s Gogo service.

“And you will see a lot of action out of Delta this spring with a lot of [Gogo-equipped] planes on their routes,” says Blumenstein.

CBS recently broadcast a portion of its Early Show live via Gogo from a Virgin America flight out of Boston. Sir Richard Branson was on the aircraft with Blumenstein and it sounds like they had a nice little conversation.

You may recall that Branson’s Virgin Atlantic in 2002 started offering passengers Arinc’s SMS service, developed in association with Tenzing (which later became part of the OnAir joint venture). So is Branson ready to kick things up a notch?

“Being on that plane with him was such a kick. I think, by the time we ended up the flight, he [was ready to become] another international satellite customer. He says he is absolutely going to get something going on Virgin Atlantic,” reveals Blumenstein.

Will he talk to Aircell? “I think definitely,” says the Aircell chief.

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