This week, JetBlue Airways became the first U.S. airline to offer e-mail and instant messaging on one of its flights. Free of charge, passengers on their “BetaBlue” aircraft will have access to email with Wi-Fi enabled laptops and smartphones. The service also offers live television and satellite radio.
JetBlue paid heed to customer surveys, finding that their passengers wanted increased connectivity but drew the line at cell phones on flights. The first aircrafts equipped with the wireless network will try out the system’s efficacy and attractiveness over the next coming months.
When it launched Connexion with Lufthansa in 2004, Boeing was the first to offer an in-flight connectivity service. Anumber of other airlines subsequently picked up the service, but it was abandoned two years later, largely due to a lack of willingness to pay the $30-per-flight charge. Because JetBlue chose a limited Internet service, they are able to offer the service free of cost.
Other carriers have announced plans to launch or test in-flight connectivity in 2008. Virgin America is looking at a broadband Internet service that will allow passengers to access Internet from personal devices and the in-flight entertainment system at every seat. American Airline’s AirCell broadband Internet service will be available on its domestic flights, though the cost is yet to be determined. Alaska Airlines is testing an in-flight wireless Internet.