United Airlines has begun quietly testing Row 44's in-flight Internet service on a single Boeing 757.

The US major fitted the aircraft with Row 44's Ku-band satellite-based connectivity solution "on a trial basis", and, so far "it's going pretty well", says a source with knowledge of the situation.

"Access is free after taking a survey and as such usage is very good," adds the source.

United's trial of Row 44 gives the carrier the distinction of being the first commercial operator in the world to test both a satellite-centred service, Row 44, and an air-to-ground (ATG) service, Aircell's Gogo solution.

A total 13 United aircraft are already fitted with Gogo.

Southwest Airlines will be able to conduct a similar experiment soon, as the carrier - which is fitting its fleet with Row 44 - is acquiring Gogo customer AirTran Airways.

A Row 44 spokesman says: "We will have about 60 Southwest planes installed by year-end, and the installation pace will pick up right away in the New Year."

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news