With American Airlines, Virgin America and Delta Air Lines currently deploying its Gogo inflight Wi-Fi service, Aircell expects commitments for the technology to reach 2,000 commercial aircraft by the end of 2009.
In 2007, American Airlines signed a deal with Aircell for Gogo and became its launch customer, and last August it became the first airline in the US to offer inflight Internet access. Now customers traveling on AA's 767-200s can access coast-to-coast coverage on nonstop flights between New York and San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami.
"The launch of Gogo inflight Internet service on Virgin America and Delta closed out Aircell's year with a bang and set the stage for 2009 to be the year of inflight Internet, with us leading the way," Aircell President and CEO Jack Blumenstein told Airline Procurement. "We expect Gogo will play an important role for carriers in 2009 by providing ancillary revenue in today's tough economic conditions and generating customer loyalty in commercial aviation's highly competitive market."
In December, Delta Air Lines launched Gogo onboard six aircraft, the first in a series of more than 300 DL domestic aircraft to feature the offering, which allows passengers to use Wi-Fi-enabled devices such as laptops, smartphones and PDAs. Wi-Fi currently is available on five MD-88s flying between New York LaGuardia, Boston Logan and Washington National as well as one 757 flying throughout its domestic network.
"Inflight Internet access is one of the most popular requests we receive from our customers," said DL Senior VP-Marketing Tim Mapes. "Delta's launch of Gogo onboard these first Delta aircraft demonstrates our continued commitment to providing our customers with the options they want and value when they travel with us."
The carrier plans to add inflight Internet across its domestic fleet and begin the certification process for the mainline domestic fleet of its Northwest Airlines subsidiary early this year, with installations beginning in late 2009.
"When Gogo is available on our entire domestic mainline fleet, our customers will have access to the most extensive Wi-Fi network in the sky, making the time they spend with us onboard even more productive and entertaining," added Mapes.
Virgin America launched Gogo in November via an air-to-ground video during a YouTube Live user event in San Francisco. A segment of the show was streamed to audiences on the ground and online from an altitude of 10,688 m. Pricing is set at $12.95 for flights over 3 hr. and $9.95 for flights of 3 hr. or less. The company expects all Virgin America aircraft to be equipped with inflight Wi-Fi by the second quarter.
"Our guests are enthusiastic about the full, unedited Internet experience that Gogo provides and they expect nothing less from Virgin America's tech-savvy and innovative service," said VX President and CEO David Cush. "We look forward to being the first US carrier to offer the Gogo service fleetwide and to the next phase of the project."
A major part of that phase includes integrating mobile communications capabilities into the carrier's touchscreen entertainment platform. This year Aircell plans to add games, television, movies and music to Gogo, an enhancement likely to offer airlines additional ancillary revenue.
"Providing inflight Internet service on airplanes was only the beginning," Executive VP-Wireless Services Tom Weigman pointed out. "Our Wi-Fi devices have become portals to life, enabling us to work, play and relate wherever and whenever we want. Having opened up the airplane cabin to the Internet, we look forward to dramatically enriching the passenger inflight experience by providing the services and content they desire."