Virgin America poised to launch Gogo broadband
Virgin America plans to start introducing Aircell’s Gogo terrestrially based passenger broadband service in its fleet in eleven days’ time, according to a report in online travel guide Jaunted.com.
The hyper-trendy carrier plans to launch with a special “beta” flight from its San Francisco base on November 22. After an extravaganza that’s due to include the first-ever live air-to-ground video stream via YouTube, the airline intends to implement Gogo on one aircraft a week until the entire Airbus A320-family fleet has been equipped by the second quarter of next year. Pricing will be Aircell’s standard $10 on flights of up to three hours, $12.95 on longer ones.
The airline plans to block use of the system for VoIP applications like Skype – possibly to conserve bandwidth though more probably in fear of trouble from the anti-phone lobby – but will not be filtering Internet content. “Our policy is to not edit any inflight entertainment content, and this will extend to the Internet,” says spokeswoman Abby Lunardini. “We believe we should be giving guests more options, not fewer.”
Initially the service will be available only to passengers carrying their own wireless-capable laptops and other devices. Next year work will begin to integrate it with the airline’s celebrated Red IFE system so that passengers lacking personal devices can also access email and the Internet.
Virgin America is on course to become the second Gogo airline, following launch operator American Airlines. American is currently trialling the service on domestic Boeing 767s and plans to implement it in the domestic fleet if passenger reaction is satisfactory. Air Canada and Delta have also committed to offering the service.
* Connectivity veteran John Wade has joined Aircell as general manager of business aviation services. The company is developing a version of the Gogo shipset that is suitable for installation in business jets. Wade comes to the company after long spells with Airbus/SITA-owned service provider OnAir, which is one of two companies poneering onboard cellphone, and its Tenzing Communications precursor.
“John’s deep knowledge of inflight communications and the competitive landscape,
coupled with his industry history and status, make him an ideal leader for our Business Aviation Services division,” says Aircell chief executive Jack Blumenstein. “We are now even better equipped to build on our industry-leading position by identifying, creating, selling and supporting innovative, high-quality products and services.”
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