Delta Air Lines next week plans to begin beta testing a new in-flight portal for the Gogo in-flight Internet service it offers to passengers.

"Gogo 2.0 is about to launch, and users who are familiar with our portal will begin seeing changes as we migrate from 1.0 to 2.0 across the fleet," Delta senior product manager of in-flight entertainment Chris Babb says in an online message.

"We've enhanced usability, improved transaction times and given the portal a facelift. In fact, we'll begin rolling it out next week in a beta phase."

Delta also reached a milestone this week as both the carrier and Gogo provider Aircell installed the broadband system on the 300th Delta aircraft, a Boeing 737-800.

"Through the remainder of 2009, we'll install Wi-Fi on roughly 40 additional aircraft. We expect to finish the pre-merger Delta domestic fleet in the coming weeks and ramp up work on the pre-merger Northwest fleet in early January," says Babb.

Meanwhile, enhancements are being made to the Aircell network of cell towers. The first enhancement occurred on 2 December when Aircell activated a new cell tower just northeast of Atlanta. Aircell will also be adding new towers in Arizona, Wyoming and Maryland by the end of January.

Beyond adding cell towers, existing cell sites have been split into smaller sectors as well.

"When we first launched with four [Boeing] MD-88s, each cell site had three sectors. Today, half of the 93 towers have been upgraded to six sector cell sites, which basically doubles the capacity of the network in that area," says Babb, noting that, as traffic volumes have increased, so has the network's ability to accommodate the "busy web surfers on Delta aircraft".

Delta has been offering passengers complimentary in-flight Wi-Fi for the holidays via a sponsorship arrangement involving eBay.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news