American Airlines today launched in-flight WiFi Internet access on a limited basis on some if its longer, nonstop flights. American is offering the service for $12.95 per flight on its 15 Boeing 767-200 planes connecting New York with Los Angeles, San Francisco and Miami. Once the flights reach 10,000 feet, passengers can access corporate virtual private networks, e-mail, instant messaging and the Web using their laptops, smart phones and PDAs.
JetBlue has also been testing free WiFi service on one of its aircraft for the past few months through its BetaBlue program but there are more restrictions on that service than with American's new service. Southwest has also been testing Internet capabilities on several flights, with an eye toward offering mobile broadband services on every Southwest flight in the near future. Plans are also underway at Delta, US Airways and Virgin America to test in-flight Internet as well.
With the embattled airline industry under pressure to identify additional revenue opportunities, we'll likely see more carriers follow suit in the months ahead if these early launches prove successful.