In Flight Internet Becoming More Popular

    December 7, 2007

Two months ago, we reported that Alaska Air would be the first U.S. airline carrier to test satellite Internet access on their flights. Now, several other airlines have followed suit—but it looks like they might beat Alaska Airlines to the punch.

According to the New York Times, JetBlue Airways began its first test Tuesday, with free email and IM on one of its planes. American Airlines, Virgin Airlines and Alaska Airlines all have plans to begin full Internet access. The Times says access will cost from $10 per flight. The wireless Internet access will not be available during take off and landing.

On JetBlue’s test flight Wednesday, the Times likened the service to dial up with its delays and “dropped calls.” The touch-and-go access is part of the reason why JetBlue isn’t charging during its test.

As for other carriers’ plans, American will have its test plane equipped this month. Alaska Airlines still plans to begin its test in spring, with plans to equip the full fleet by the end of 2009 if all goes well.

Is there a market for this? Forrester Research says there is:

But other companies are convinced that plenty of travelers will pay for more robust Web access. That view is bolstered by a recent survey by Forrester Research that found that 26 percent of leisure travelers would pay $10 for Internet access on a two-to-four-hour flight and 45 percent would pay that on a flight longer than four hours.

Voice calls from cellphones. will still not be allowed.