Alaska eyes Gogo Video and Wi-fi-enabled IFE

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Seattle-based Alaska Airlines will likely evaluate Aircell's forthcoming video download service for its flights to Hawaii, Canada and Mexico as the carrier aims to deploy Aircell's Gogo in-flight Internet system fleetwide in 2010.

Gogo Video allows passengers to download movies, television shows and other content for a fee on aircraft equipped with Aircell's in-flight broadband solution. Content is stored on Aircell's onboard servers and the service does not require a Wi-fi connection.

Alaska is preparing to install Aircell's Internet solution on its entire Boeing 737 fleet after opting against the Row 44 connectivity solution that the carrier trialled last year.

Currently Gogo is only available in the lower 48 states of the USA, but Aircell will install cell towers in Alaska to enable connectivity in the carrier's namesake state in 2010.

However, Alaska's Hawaiian, Mexican and Canadian operations will not have in-flight Internet so the airline is interested in Gogo Video for those markets, especially given that Hawaii is a leisure market, Alaska manager of product development and market research Chase Craig tells ATI. He notes that Alaska has not committed to Gogo Video as the product is still under development.

Aircell expects to introduce its video download service in 2010 "sooner rather than later", a company spokeswoman says.

While Alaska waits for Aircell to launch Gogo Video, the carrier appears committed to portable in-flight entertainment (IFE) players.

Alaska has no plans to discontinue its long-standing relationship with IFE firm digEcor as the airline deploys fleetwide Wi-fi, Craig says.

The carrier currently rents the firm's digEplayer devices to passengers on roughly 25% of its flights - flights longer than three and a half hours, he says.

Looking ahead, Alaska may integrate in-flight connectivity with portable IFE players and the carrier is open to devices created by firms other than digEcor.

"We do believe there is a place for a Wi-fi-enabled portable entertainment device," Craig says. Such equipment would be of interest to passengers travelling without laptops and passengers who don't want to use their laptop in-flight, he explains.

While Craig would like to see other carriers deploy connectivity-enabled IFE players for proof of concept, he says Alaska is focused on observing passenger responses to in-flight Wi-fi and determining if there is demand for Internet-enabled IFE devices.