In-flight landscape set to change as American’s Internet goes live

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Oneworld alliance member American Airlines has won the distinction of becoming the first US carrier to offer in-flight Internet access to passengers after today launching Aircell’s Gogo service on 15 transcontinental Boeing 767-200s.

The event marks a major milestone for Colorado-based Aircell, which has spent several years clearing a path for in-flight broadband services in the USA, including acquiring an exclusive air-to-ground (ATG) spectrum license at auction in 2006.

It also heralds a new era for US carriers, which are increasingly seeing in-flight connectivity as a way to drive fresh ancillary revenue streams at a time when every penny counts. Virgin America and Delta Air Lines have signed up for Aircell’s Gogo service, while Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines intend to trial California-based Row 44’s Ku band-based offering.

“Today, US air travel changes forever. With Aircell’s unique ATG inflight Internet service, airlines finally have an economically viable option for providing the broadband connectivity passengers are demanding,” says Aircell president and CEO Jack Blumenstein.

“American Airlines is the first to bring inflight Internet to market, and today the days of being cut off from the rest of the world while in the air become history.”

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Effective today, customers travelling on American’s 767-200 aircraft can access complete coast-to-coast coverage for a charge of $12.95 on nonstop flights between New York and San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles, and New York and Miami.They have access to the web, personal IM and email accounts, and VPN access to corporate email and networks. Cell phone and Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) services are not available.

“We are pleased to provide our customers with the unprecedented ability to stay  connected to their family, friends and business associates on the ground via the Internet while travelling at 30,000ft above the United States,” says American executive VP – marketing Dan Garton.

In mid-2001, American became one of three US majors, including Delta and United Airlines, to agree a partnership with Boeing to equip their aircraft with the airframer’s now defunct high-speed connectivity service Connexion. But the carriers backed away from that decision in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks.