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February 23, 2009 9:00 AM

Time for in-flight Internet access is at hand

I've flown twice in the last two months and on one of them - frankly I don't remember if if was Southwest or Frontier - I hauled out my laptop to work on a Word document.

I noticed down in the corner that my spyware alert had been triggered, which meant I was connected to the Internet, even though I hadn't opened a browser. Curious, I popped open Mozilla and up popped the Rocky's Web site. Not wanting to be responsible for some communications system failure, I closed the site and shut off my wireless receiver. I figured I'd stumbled into some rogue Wi-Fi signal floating through the skies.

Now I'm guessing it was a test of an inflight Internet service many airlines expect to begin offering soon.


Despite the industry's promises over the years, Wi-Fi broadband service is available on a relatively small number of flights. Blame technological hurdles, financial turmoil and a general reluctance by airlines to invest in upgrading their fleets.

The U.S. airline industry, though, now appears serious about moving forward with Wi-Fi in the sky.

A half-dozen carriers - including heavyweights American Airlines, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines - are testing or implementing Internet service on select flights. Other airlines hope to roll out the technology on a broader basis later this year.

"I think that within the next 18 months in-flight Internet is going to become a lot more prevalent than it is now," said Florida- based airline consultant Stuart Klaskin. "The technology has more or less been perfected to a point where it does really work well, and airlines are starting to show some genuine interest in making it happen."

Much of it is tied to consumer demand. Passengers are used to being able to access the Internet almost anywhere, and a commercial airplane is one of the few remaining places where they don't have that ability. Leisure travelers want a way to pass the time and communicate with friends and family during flights, while business travelers want to get work done without being interrupted by phone calls.

"What this really boils down to is that we really want to give our customers the option to be productive when they're flying," said Chris Mainz, a spokesman for Southwest Airlines, which recently began testing Internet technology on several planes.

Consumers also now seem willing to pay for it. A study conducted last year by Forrester Research found that almost half of the leisure travelers it surveyed said they would fork over $10 for Internet access on long flights. The percentage likely is even higher for business travelers.

Would you pay for Internet access while you're flying? Or would you rather get away from the Internet for a couple of hours? Would passengers with Internet phone service be able to yak away during the flight? If Internet access becomes common on flights, will cell phone service be far behind?



Discussion

  • February 23, 2009

    9:56 AM

    Anonymous writes:

    If I wanted to connect the $10 would be no biggie.

    Usually though, I dont need to be connected on a flight. Everything is pre-downloaded or on hard copy. And since I have a Kindle and an Iphone, I rarely get my laptop out anymore. Movies and music on the Iphone, books on kindle, who needs a laptop?

    Please NO phone service! Thats the last thing we need. Some joker talking on his cell for 3 hrs on the way to ny would be hell. On the flipside, with wifi access talking on the plane would be as easy as bringing a mic and downloading skype, cell service or no.

    Then again, as long as I have my headphones and some tunes fat people will still be the most annoying thing on a plane.

  • February 23, 2009

    10:06 AM

    Shaggy writes:

    Me thinks those pesky black helicopters have been hovering over Wolf's house latley:)
    Could be his early years coming home to roost?

  • February 23, 2009

    10:09 AM

    Anonymous writes:

    "Movies and music on the Iphone, books on kindle, who needs a laptop?"

    But what about the porn? Can't fly with out the porn!

  • February 23, 2009

    10:15 AM

    gr8fuldude writes:

    I was just thinking that I really don't need some clown next to me surfing porn. Save that for your hotel room pal.

    Accessing the internet though would be a great way to kill time and add some productivity to otherwise empty time.

  • February 23, 2009

    10:25 AM

    benn writes:

    That would be cool, but I would rather have power-outlets at every seat so that my laptop doesn't die 2 hours into a 10 hour flight.

  • February 23, 2009

    10:39 AM

    Shaggy writes:

    "but I would rather have power-outlets at every seat so that my laptop doesn't die 2 hours into a 10 hour flight."---Bennyboy

    Buy a couple of extra batteries, or are you used to having your personal needs catered to at everyone else's expense?
    Typical Liberal.

  • February 23, 2009

    10:43 AM

    JW writes:

    "That would be cool, but I would rather have power-outlets at every seat so that my laptop doesn't die 2 hours into a 10 hour flight."

    Im going on some serious flights in June, and I have got to get some extra battery power for just this reason. I figure two replacement batteries for the laptop, and one of those portable chargers for the iphone. Possibly Ill just plug it into the lapop. Dunno.

    Kindle lasts days, so no worries there.

    Anyone regularly fly 12+ hrs and what do you do?

    I dont know that surfing porn would be that big a deal. You can bring DVD's and mags on the plane right now, and Ive never seen anyone watching or reading porn.

    Then again...people are insane.

  • February 23, 2009

    10:54 AM

    gr8fuldude writes:

    JW - I fly to Asia at least annually, and usually try to sleep on the leg between the west coast and whereever the transfer point is. Unisom works pretty well, and this way I can usually alleviate the jetlag.

    As to porn, I actually once flew to Atlanta with my boss, who actually carried a whole stash with him and thought nothing of reading during the flight. Pretty awkward, imho.

  • February 23, 2009

    11:02 AM

    gr8fuldude writes:

    BTW, one other thing JW - If you are going to Europe or Asia, you are going to need a power converter if you plan to recharge anything during the trip.

  • February 23, 2009

    11:09 AM

    JW writes:

    Gr8,

    UGH! I repeat, people are insane. Seems like today maybe you could just complain to the flight crew, but if it was your boss...

    Unisom I will ask about.

    Have you ever had to wear a suit in Asia in the summer? If so, which would you recomend: Tropical Wool, linen, blends, or other? Its going to be HOT and the suit isnt optional.

  • February 23, 2009

    11:30 AM

    Shaggy writes:

    "Have you ever had to wear a suit in Asia in the summer? If so, which would you recomend"--JW

    For you, I would recommend a one piece, stay away from the bikini.

  • February 23, 2009

    11:59 AM

    benn writes:

    Really shaggy? Really? Talking smack about hoping for power outlets on a plane? REALLY?!

  • February 23, 2009

    12:28 PM

    gr8fuldude writes:

    JW - Our wedding was in March, and it was 97, so I know exactly what you mean. I had only brought one suit, but only wore the jacket when absolutely necessary. I've clue what fabrics to suggest. I would talk to a decent men's shop (men's wearhouse is pretty good, though it's been ages since I have had to buy)

    What country will you be in?

  • February 23, 2009

    12:43 PM

    JW writes:

    UAE, India.

    I went to Nordstrom's last week. They said mid march is when they will have their summer suits in. Material I can figure out (I hate wrinkles in a suit, so 100% linen is probably out). Im just not sure on color. Its all business meetings, so no white, but I wonder if tan is acceptable. They also have darker ones in grey, navy, black, but if I can get away with a lighter color I think I will.

    Looks like they are cheaper than a regular suit though, which is nice. Maybe Ill just get two.

  • February 23, 2009

    12:45 PM

    JW writes:

    UAE, India.

    I went to Nordstrom's last week. They said mid march is when they will have their summer suits in. Material I can figure out (I hate wrinkles in a suit, so 100% linen is probably out). Im just not sure on color. Its all business meetings, so no white, but I wonder if tan is acceptable. They also have darker ones in grey, navy, black, but if I can get away with a lighter color I think I will.

    Looks like they are cheaper than a regular suit though, which is nice. Maybe Ill just get two.

  • February 23, 2009

    1:24 PM

    Mark Wolf writes:

    Shaggy,
    They're actually more of a dark grey and I get a strange tingling in the fillings of my teeth when they're hovering.

  • February 23, 2009

    1:56 PM

    Shaggy writes:

    LoL Mark,
    Those tingling feelings have been [making] their rounds latley.
    I hope Chris Mathews can contain himself when the chosen one makes his next speech.

  • February 23, 2009

    9:41 PM

    RegLib writes:

    JW,

    I travel regularly on 12+ hour flights to Asia. Forget the Unison; get your doctor to prescribe some Ambien. But use it when you land, not on the flight, if you're going west. Otherwise you'll get a good sleep on the plane and arrive in the late afternoon wide awake. If you're going east, take it on the flight because you'll arrive early in the morning.

    Unless you are a small person, do your best to get upgraded to business. It makes a huge difference.

    You don't need power converters for most of your electronics. They'll work and recharge just fine on a 220V supply (but look at the power ratings before plugging in, just to be sure!). But do find out what plug configurations are used in the countries you're visiting and make sure you have adapters for that configuration.

    If you're in places like Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, or Mumbai in the summer what kind of suit material you get doesn't matter that much as long as it isn't winter material. It's astoundingly hot and humid, and just plan on being soaked with sweat. Everyone is, and its inescapable.

  • February 24, 2009

    7:44 AM

    GenBalthus writes:

    Gee, all these complaints about not using your laptop on the plane, and not ONE mention of electronic security for that massive box of electronic gadgets in which you are sitting at 35,000ft crusing at 530mph?

    So here is a little scenario for you:

    Laptop. Wireless Internet connection. Hacker. Flight software. Instrument readouts.

    Keep your dang laptop off and read a freaking book.

  • February 24, 2009

    8:16 AM

    Ozone writes:

    Avionics on a airliner (or any plane, for that matter) are a completely different type of system, and would not be networked with any kind of WiFi. What your proposing is pretty much the same as believing that someone can tap into your home wireless network, and reprogram your refrigerator to melt all the ice cream and the dryer to lose one sock out of every five pair put in it.

  • February 24, 2009

    8:25 AM

    JW writes:

    Thanks RegLib.

    "Laptop. Wireless Internet connection. Hacker. Flight software. Instrument readouts."

    How exactly does the hacker connect to the flight computer? You think its online, and the pilots are surfing porn?

    If flight computers were available online, the scenario you suggest could happen while the hacker was ON THE GROUND.

    Its just amazing the stupidity that you people post.

  • February 24, 2009

    8:54 AM

    JW writes:

    "What your proposing is pretty much the same as believing that someone can tap into your home wireless network, and reprogram your refrigerator to melt all the ice cream and the dryer to lose one sock out of every five pair put in it."

    HACKERS!!!!!

    Clearly I have got to update the anti-virus on my dryer. Maybe even format and re-instal the OS. How deep to viruses "go" into the OS on my dryer? Anyone? Is it "root kit" stuff? Where is the USB plug or the optical drive?

    :)

  • February 24, 2009

    9:18 AM

    Shaggy writes:

    "How deep to viruses "go" into the OS on my dryer? Anyone? Is it "root kit" stuff? Where is the USB plug or the optical drive?"--JW


    You mean to tell me you DON'T control all your appliances from your PC?
    We are downsizing to Socialism at a faster rate then I thought.

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