Delta launches satellite wi-fi on Narita-bound 747s

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Delta Air Lines is launching the first revenue flights with satellite wi-fi on Boeing 747-400s bound from Los Angeles and Atlanta to Tokyo Narita.

The aircraft, which depart on 25 March, are the first to fly revenue service with Gogo’s new Ku-band wi-fi product designed to provide connectivity over water.

The Atlanta-based carrier says it has three of 16 747-400s equipped with the satellite wi-fi system and expects the balance of installations to be completed by mid-2014. These aircraft also operate to Narita from Detroit and New York John F. Kennedy International airport, as well as between New York-Tel Aviv and Detroit-Nagoya.

"Our customers want to remain productive in-flight and that does not stop as they fly over U.S. borders," says Tim Mapes, Delta's senior vice president, marketing. "Expanding Delta's wi-fi services internationally is another benefit of the investments we are making to improve the travel experience, and give our customers exactly what they want."

Delta will initially price the service at $14 per hour for laptop users and $8 per hour for those using mobile devices. It will also offer passes for the entire flight starting at $14.95 and $24.95. Gogo says it is not offering pricing for different speed options, which is a model that some other carriers like JetBlue have implemented.

The airline also says it is in the “final testing phase” for wi-fi on its Airbus A330 fleet. Delta received the supplemental type certificates to install the system on the 747 in December 2013 and the A330 earlier this month.

Flightglobal reported last April that Delta had originally applied to certify the Ku-band radome on a Boeing 767 in early 2013. However, the process was slowed due to the US Federal Aviation Administration's tightened requirements for validating bird strikes, which also affected other connectivity providers’ satellite wi-fi installations last year.

Despite the initial delay to get Ku-band in the air, Delta continues to expect satellite-wif installations on more than 150 aircraft to be complete by 2015. Those include the Boeing 777, 767, 747, A330 and Boeing 757 fleets on international long-haul routes. The airline also offers Gogo’s domestic air-to-ground wi-fi service on more than nearly 900 aircraft today.