Inflight E-Mail Takes Off With JetBlue

The first free U.S. inflight e-mail and instant messaging service will launch next Tuesday aboard a JetBlue flight leaving Kennedy Airport in New York.

JetBlue Airways is working with Yahoo Inc. and Research In Motion Ltd. on the "BetaBlue" flight that will also carry passengers to San Francisco, according to The Wall Street Journal.

A JetBlue spokeswoman would only say that the carrier will release information on the "innovative onboard product" on Tuesday. Spokesmen for Yahoo and RIM could not be reached immediately for comment.

After several months of trial flights on the A320 aircraft, JetBlue will decide whether to install the system fleetwide. Wi-Fi-equipped laptops with Yahoo Mail or Yahoo Messenger clients will be able to send and receive e-mail and messages to people on the ground, while Wi-Fi-ready BlackBerry smart phones, including the 8820 and the Curve 8320, will be able to access BlackBerry e-mail and instant messages.

JetBlue conducted a test flight yesterday on the East Coast, in which a JetBlue spokesman was able to send an e-mail to a Journal reporter and receive a reply. Several airlines have discussed pilots of similar services and what to charge for them, but JetBlue's system is the first to take off with passengers.

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