Plans by Delta Airlines to roll out Wi-Fi across its entire fleet by 2009 seem to be coming to fruition. On Tuesday, Delta is expected to have four of its eight shuttle planes wired for Wi-Fi service on runs between New York-Boston and New York-Washington, according to USA Today.
Early next year, Delta will begin to wire one plane every two to three days until its fleet of 330 planes is completely web ready. The new service will cost $9.95 for unlimited access on flights of three hours or less and $12.95 for runs of three hours or more.
Delta will provide a censored version of the Web for any Wi-Fi device. You'll be allow to access e-mail, surf the Web, and use instant messaging. However, Delta will restrict VoIP calls, pornographic sites and any other content it deems inappropriate for public consumption. To promote the new service Delta will offer free Wi-Fi on its shuttle flights for the next two weeks. Delta also says it will roll out Wi-Fi for Northwest Airlines planes as the two companies are in the midst of a corporate merger.
Delta's Internet access is provided by Aircell's Gogo Inflight Wi-Fi service, which uses cell towers on the ground to provide onboard Internet. Aircell seems to be the ISP of choice for airlines as Delta is only the latest of several airlines to offer GoGo web access. Virgin America started offering Wi-Fi enabled flights earlier this month, and American Airlines went with GoGo in August. Meanwhile, other airlines are looking elsewhere for web access. Jet Blue introduced a highly restricted, but free, Internet service on its planes last year in partnership with LiveTV, Yahoo and Research In Motion, and Alaska Airlines has signed up with Row 44, a satellite-based Internet service that works over land and sea (GoGo only works over land).
Onboard Wi-Fi may ruffle the feathers of some who prefer to get some shuteye or not feel the need to incessantly check their Crackberry's while shuttling across the continent, but, as they say, you can't stop progress. For a while now, airlines have been citing web access as the most oft requested service by passengers. While there have been previous attempts that floundered, Aircell and others seem to have the logistics figured out. Reviewing Aircell's GoGo service on American Airlines last month, PC World Contributing Editor James A. Martin reported a positive experience overall. It looks like the people have spoken, and the market has listened. It's Wi-Fi in the skies from here on out.