Continental's new Gogo deal to help carrier define future Wi-Fi plan

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Continental Airlines has opted to equip 21 Boeing 757-300s with Aircell's pay-for-service Gogo in-flight broadband system while following through with a previously-announced plan to offer LiveTV's basic Kiteline email and messaging service for free on 30 Boeing 737-900ERs.

The move will help the carrier "decide where we think [we'll] take Wi-Fi in the future", says a Continental spokeswoman.

Continental will start deploying the air-to-ground (ATG)-based Gogo system on its mostly domestic 757s in the second quarter of 2010.

"Soon, Continental's passengers will be able to use Gogo to do virtually anything they want on the Internet - e-mail, chat, poke, tweet, download, upload, shop. In short, flying time is about to become their time," says Aircell president and CEO Ron LeMay.

However, Continental is already in the process of rolling out LiveTV's latest in-flight television system, the seat-back LTV3 system, on its Boeing domestic fleet, and readying to offer LiveTV's basic Kiteline email and instant message service for free on 30 aircraft.

LTV3 is offered by Continental for free in first class, and for a fee of $6 in economy class.

"We currently have LiveTV on 42 aircraft and we're on track to complete installation of it on 50 aircraft by year's end. The Kiteline plan is still going ahead. We are installing [that Wi-Fi system] also in the second quarter of 2010," says a Continental spokeswoman, noting that Kiteline will be offered on 30 Boeing 737-900ERs.

"We will be evaluating the feedback we get from customers on both [the Gogo and Kiteline] systems," she says.

Continental becomes Aircell's ninth customer, and underscores Aircell's role as the dominant in-flight broadband provider in the United States.

Chicago-based Aircell has already secured deals with Air Canada, AirTran Airways, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and its Northwest Airlines merger partner, United Airlines, US Airways and Virgin America.