American and Virgin – hey now, we were gaga for Gogo first!

With AirTran’s clever marketing stunt from this morning still fresh in our heads, it’s easy to forget that American Airlines got the Gogo ball rolling last summer, and that Virgin America kept the momentum going with a big YouTube live event that proved Aircell’s in-flight broadband system can indeed support a live broadcast as well as a plane-load of crazed journalists, bloggers, techies and YouTube stars.

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I loved seeing this morning’s NBC Today Show exchange between Meredith and a reporter aboard the AirTran flight, but it was a not dissimilar performance to Sir Richard Branson’s interview with the CBS Morning Show in February (although, let’s face it, Richard is tresBranson in-flight.JPG cute).

But enough about my industry crushes. Now, while I do not want to detract from AirTran – the carrier is one smart cookie to be secretly equipping its aircraft with Gogo in order to announce today that it will offer the service fleet-wide by mid-summer – I must take my hat off to American and Virgin America.

Both carriers today sent separate gentle email reminders to the news world that they were early adopters of Gogo and that they are trying to equip as many aircraft as humanly possible (technicians are working overtime so that you and I can have in-flight Wi-Fi…thank you technicians!).

Clearly anticipating its Atlanta rival’s announcement today, Delta – Gogo’s third adopter – made a similar public relations move yesterday, saying its fleet will be equipped by end of summer.

But for the sake of clarity, here is where AA and VA stand.

American was the first airline to install Gogo on its 767-200 aircraft that fly primarily transcon routes. In April, the company announced the expansion of its relationship with Gogo and plans to install the service on 318 aircraft that fly primarily domestic routes. 

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Since its April announcement, American has installed the service on nearly 20 MD-80s, with plans to complete the 150 scheduled aircraft by the end of 2009.  In addition, American is working to install Gogo on the new 737s this year, with plans to install the service on the current 737s beginning next year.

Virgin America already offers Gogo on 24 of its 28 aircraft and says that by 25 May its entire fleet will do so. Yes, it’s a small fleet, but when it comes down to brass tax, Virgin America will be the very first carrier to offer Gogo fleet-wide.

Aircell must be pleased as punch that carriers are now chomping at the bit to get as many aircraft equipped with Gogo as possible. If the firm is still looking for cash, I’d imagine these headlines don’t hurt a damn bit.

If Aircell was public, would you buy the stock now?

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