Alaska to equip fleet with in-flight Internet by end of 2010

Alaska Airlines plans to equip its entire fleet with Row 44′s satellite-based in-flight connectivity system by the end of next year.

Wi-Fi service is currently available onboard one Alaska Boeing 737 aircraft. But additional aircraft will be equipped in the coming months.

An Alaska spokeswoman tells Runway Girl: “They are planning to roll out commercial availability of the service by the end of 2010.”

Now the carrier needs to figure out how much it is going to charge passengers for the pleasure.

During its single-aircraft trial, passengers have been able to use the service for free. But Alaska says it now ready to start evaluating pricing models, after receiving “overwhelmingly positive” feedback from customers (it also helps that Row 44 recently won that STC from the FCC, clearing thLaptop.jpge way for carriers to charge).

The pricing model study will occur “over the next several weeks”, says the Alaska spokeswoman, noting that the carrier is not disclosing the prices it is evaluating “in order to get a true response of non-biased feedback”.

Twitter will no doubt give us a good idea!

Row 44 has previously said it sees the pricepoint coming in at under the $10 mark. This would make it relatively competitive with Aircell’s Gogo service, which costs laptop users $9.95 on flights of three hours or less and $12.95 for more than three hours. Aircell has been running various discount promos for months, however.

In addition to having more control over pricing and customer experience, Alaska opted for Row 44′s Ku-band-based offering because it ensures the carrier can provide connectivity over both land and water, says the spokeswoman.

“Given their service routes to Alaska, Hawaii and Mexico, satellite-based was really important to them.”

So what about VoIP and objectionable content, will they be blocked by Alaska? The short answers are yes, and no, respectively. Alaska says:

Although you can use your cell phone for surfing the Internet, sending email, etc. (assuming it has Wi-Fi capability) we do not allow passengers to use the system for voice communication either through a cell phone or Skype-like service.

Content is not blocked; each passenger is responsible for their own surfing behavior just as he or she is responsible for their magazines, movies and other materials brought on board. Passengers will be required to agree to certain terms of use when they log in, including a commitment to use the system appropriately. 

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