In-flight internet coverage continues to spread

Two airlines made news this week with regards to in-flight internet connectivity with coverage growing both within the United States and across the Atlantic Ocean. Delta Airlines has announced plans to increase their already leading gogo deployment. With the installation of gogo nearly complete in their domestic mainline fleet, the company will add connectivity to another 223 aircraft, namely regional jets operating under the Delta Connection brand. The jets being equipped – larger RJs with 70+ seats – also have first class cabins and are used on longer flights as well as some targeted markets including the Delta Shuttle routes. Delta will begin the installation on these aircraft in January 2011 and expects to complete the deployment during the calendar year.

Also this week, Lufthansa is once again offering internet connectivity across the North Atlantic Ocean with the activation of the FlyNet service on their Airbus A330 aircraft. FlyNet takes over where Connexion by Boeing left off when it was shut down in 2006. At that time Lufthansa had 69 aircraft equipped with the necessary satellite hardware to provide internet service to its customers. The A330 was the first type to be certified with the new service; the A340 and 747-400 expected to receive their certifications very quickly. The service is not fully global, yet, but it does cover most transatlantic flights that Lufthansa operates.

This launch comes just over a year after Lufthansa announced their intention to restore the connectivity in partnership with Panasonic Avionics. The service went live on a flight from Frankfurt to New York City’s JFK airport. The Panasonic partnership also covers the acquisition of new antennae in order to provide connectivity on aircraft that do not have the legacy hardware installed. This will include the A380s that have been recently been delivered, with the intention to have them equipped “as soon as possible.”

The service isn’t cheap – €10.95 for one hour or €19.95 for 24 hours – but there are other options available to pay for the service. Based on the existing contract for lounge access with T-Mobile the carrier will offer seamless connectivity throughout the journey. There will also be roaming partners available and the opportunity to redeem Miles&More frequent flyer points for the service. The rates for points redemption are not great – 3,500 or 7,000 for the two defined levels – but it is nice to have the option available. Additionally, the service will be free through January 31, 2011 as part of the re-launch and there will be some free websites offered on the portal even after the trial period expires.

Unlike the gogo or Row44 services which are WiFi only, the FlyNet service offers both WiFi and GPRS/GSM connectivity for mobile phones. Voice services are not enabled for these devices. Similarly, Skype and similar VoIP protocols are theoretically blocked though there are generally ways around those blocks for the particularly resourceful folks out there.

I’m hopeful that the 747s are certified and operational within the next 4 weeks as I’m currently scheduled to fly Frankfurt – JFK on January 4th and it would be great to try out the service, especially for free. Otherwise I’ll just have to wait until next year’s StarMegaDo where we can live blog the flights and stream video from our first class picnics.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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