Delta Equips Fleet with Broadband

Delta Airlines said today they'll put in-flight broadband on their entire fleet of 330 planes by 2009. The airline will use Aircell's Gogo Internet service, which hasn't yet launched in a production run on any craft.

American Airlines ran a public test flight a few weeks ago, and will launch service on its 15 trans-continental Boeing 767-200 craft. But that's still a test. Virgin America will launch Gogo later this year on its fleet, which numbers just 22 planes so far.

The Delta service will launch starting this year on 133 MD88/90 aircraft, and then in 2009 expand to their 200 Boeing planes (737, 757, and 767-300s). The FAA airworthiness certification is model based, so each new model requires a separate process. I believe, however, that once Aircell has worked with a given airline on a particular model (like a 767-200 or 737), that approval for other carriers' identical model craft is streamlined or rubberstamped.

I had wondered if there would be an "air grab" for in-flight Internet, because Aircell's air-to-ground system seemed an affordable option for domestic carriers, and would be a selling point with the increasingly onerous costs of flight. A business traveler who can spend five hours online while crosscountry for $13 ($10 for 3 hours or fewer) might be able to salvage a working day.

Alaska Airlines will shortly launch its test with Row 44, a satellite-based firm that plans to compete domestically. Row 44 talks down Aircell, because Aircell's service will work only over land. Row 44 has the advantage for Alaska, which flies quite a number of over-water routes to Alaska and Mexico, of having continuous service in less-traveled routes.

Delta wants bragging rights because this is a full fleet deployment, not a pilot project, and thus pushed out a press release that says they're the first U.S. airline to deploy broadband. They're sort of correct.

Back in the heydey of Connexion by Boing, at most only a couple hundred plans worldwide had its satellite-based service installed, with over one-third being Lufthansa aircraft.

To comment on this article and other PCWorld content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon
Notice to our Readers
We're now using social media to take your comments and feedback. Learn more about this here.