American latest to expand Gogo in-flight Internet service

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American Airlines has opted to install Aircell's Gogo in-flight Internet system on more than 300 domestic aircraft over the next two years, as a growing number of operators commit to keeping their passengers connected during flight.

The Oneworld alliance member began trialling Gogo last summer on its 15 domestic Boeing 767-200s operating primarily on nonstop flights between New York JFK and San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Miami.

The trial gave management the ability to study customers' willingness to take advantage of high-speed, onboard connectivity and to gauge how the service performed technically in a variety of settings over an extended period of time.

"We are pleased that the results were positive and that we have decided to move forward," says American executive VP-marketing Dan Garton in a statement.

American will install the Aircell system on its domestic Boeing MD-80 and Boeing 737-800 fleets, beginning with 150 MD-80s this year.

The air-to-ground (ATG)-based service, which turns an American flight into a Wi-Fi hotspot, cannot support connectivity on overseas flights, however.

American has previously said it expects to equip its international fleet with satellite-based connectivity if its trial of Aircell's air-to-ground Internet service results in successful domestic fleet-wide equipage.

"My team has been working on connectivity for many, many years and we've been talking to all the connectivity providers. If this is very successful domestically, then we're certainly going to look at satellite solutions for our international fleet as well," American manager of in-flight communications and technology Doug Backelin told ATI last year.

Aircell is eager to accommodate American should the US major make such a request.

Company CEO Jack Blumenstein recently revealed that the firm is working with a major satellite player on a hybrid solution to offer airlines an overseas solution. A technical trial of the solution could occur "in the next year or so", he says.

Aircell's other customers include Delta Air Lines and Virgin America - which have opted for fleet-wide equipage - as well as United Airlines, which will shortly begin a trial of Gogo.

Air Canada is also expected to soon begin offering Gogo to passengers on US-bound flights, with plans to eventually offer the service across its domestic fleet.

A decision last week by Industry Canada to invite companies to apply for an air-to-ground (ATG) license in the country brings Air Canada closer to its goal.

Canada's Bell Mobility has long been considered a strong contender for the ATG license. Whoever is the winner, however, Aircell intends to partner with that firm.

"Aircell can't participate in the auction since it has to be won by a Canadian organization. We would partner with the winner," says an Aircell spokesman.

He adds: "We are obviously excited about this news and are looking forward to working with the new licensee to bring Gogo in-flight Internet to Canadian airline passengers."