Aircell has secured a fifth North American airline customer for its in-flight broadband service Gogo and says talks with a sixth carrier have reached very advanced stages.

The Colorado-based company already has arrangements in place with Air Canada, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Virgin America, the latter of which conducted a successful beta launch of Gogo yesterday in the skies above the carrier's San Francisco home.

During the Virgin America beta flight Aircell senior vice-president airline solutions Fran Phillips confirmed that Aircell has brokered an agreement with a fifth airline, but noted that the carrier has chosen not to reveal its identity yet. Discussions with a sixth operator have also greatly progressed.

The event signalled the first ever air-to-ground (ATG) video stream to YouTube Live - YouTube's first official real-world user event.

Virgin America's Wi-Fi enabled aircraft, an Airbus A320 registered N638VA, will be flying on various routes as a Thanksgiving holiday surprise to guests starting on 24 November.

Following the beta period, Gogo will be quickly added to additional aircraft and pricing will be set at $12.95 for flights over three hours and $9.95 for flights of three hours or fewer, says Virgin America.

By the second quarter of 2009, Virgin America will be the first US carrier to offer in-flight Internet fleet-wide.

Virgin America's Gogo launch follows on the heels of American's launch of a Gogo trial this summer on its transcontinental Boeing 767-200s. Phillips says the American trial is going very smoothly and in some instances has exceeded Aircell's expectations.

Aircell's growing roster of clients, including major legacy carriers, is a testament to the heightened interest that affordable ATG connectivity is garnering in the USA as well as the firm's diligence in a tough marketplace.

Virgin American president and CEO David Cush yesterday championed the service saying: "As San Francisco's only hometown airline, we couldn't do less than offer Wi-Fi as a standard option for our tech-savvy guests. With power outlets at every seat, Gogo will turn our planes into Wi-Fi hotspots and home offices in the air."

Added Aircell president and CEO Jack Blumenstein: "We're excited to launch Gogo in such a forward-thinking, cutting edge manner and look forward to all the possibilities this launch brings. 2009 will truly be the year of in-flight Internet."

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news