Airlines to offer in flight Internet

Passengers may soon hear a new in-flight announcement: “You can now log on.”

Starting next week and over the next few months, several American airlines will test Internet service on their planes.

On Tuesday, JetBlue Airways will begin offering a free e-mail and instant messaging service on one aircraft, while American Airlines, Virgin America and Alaska Airlines plan to offer a broader Web experience in the coming months, probably priced at about $10 a flight.

“I think 2008 is the year when we will finally start to see in-flight Internet access become available, but I suspect the rollout domestically will take place in a very measured way,” said Henry Harteveldt, an analyst with Forrester Research. But “in a few years time, if you get on a flight that doesn’t have Internet access, it will be like walking into a hotel room that doesn’t have TV.”

The airlines’ goal is to turn their planes into the equivalent of a wireless hot spot once the aircraft reaches its cruising altitude. It will not be available on takeoff and landing. (story)

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