It’s Cloud Computing to a whole new level. In a nod to the prevalence of Internet-ready mobile devices and stronger wireless services, American Airlines announced today that it’s poised to offer WiFi on 300 domestic aircraft over the next two years. The experiments they had been running before have been a success and airlines are scrambling to equip more planes with in flight Internet and Usenet access.
American Airlines began offering Wi-Fi aboard just over a dozen of its planes last year and charged varying fees from just under $8.00 for Internet and e-mail access via hand-held devices to just under $13.00 for laptop Internet and Usenet access to Newsgroups on longer flights.
The news from American should be welcomed by Usenet users, as more and more airlines expand WiFi capabilities to keep up with growing demand among Usenet members with mobile Web-ready iPhones, smartphones, Netbooks and other devices.
Your flight will probably have the service if you’re flying on an MD-80 aircraft because those planes will be outfitted with the technology first. You can check your e-ticket to see if you’ll be flying on an MD-80 aircraft. The only thing missing from the service is the ability to make in-flight phone calls via Skype or any other instant communications service. In flight phone calls, unless made with the airplane’s built-in equipment, are banned by the FCC.
The news follows a February announcement from Southwest Airlines saying it was testing in-flight WiFi on one of its jets. Should passengers find themselves on a WiFi plane during the trial, they can use the service for free.
Delta Airlines also announced last summer that it would be offering WiFi on all 330 planes in North America. Delta also operates on Aircell’s service and has identical pricing to the above prices listed for American Airlines, although there is no mention of a cheaper flat rate fee for handheld devices or if Usenet Newsgroup access would be supported.