AirTran Airways in-flight Wi-Fi service on all its planes soon

Wednesday, May 13, 2009, 15:17 by Aviation Correspondent

AirTran Airways, the low-cost airline based in Orlando, Florida, the United States, plans to offer high-speed in-flight wireless internet service on all of its planes. The internet service is powered by Aircell, an air-to-ground system that uses three antennas installed on the outside of the plane and working with Aircell’s broadband network.

AirTran Airways said in a statement that it would offer Wi-Fi service on its entire fleet of 136 aircraft by mid-2009.

The facility will let passengers browse the Web using their laptops, smart phones, or PDAs.

For the in-flight Wi-Fi service, AirTran Airways will charge $9.95 for flights under 3 hours and $12.95 for flights lasting longer than 3 hours.

Accessing the internet with a smart phone is to cost a passenger $7.95.

Bob Fornaro, president and CEO of AirTran Airways, said in the statement that the airline had already installed the in-flight internet service on many of its planes.

Fornaro added, “Giving business and leisure travellers a consistent, high-quality experience at a low price is our top priority, and we feel that Wi-Fi on every flight gives us a distinct competitive advantage over other airlines.”

AirTran had launched the onboard internet service with a flight for reporters from Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport to Maine.

The website quoted Robert Mann, president of the airline consulting firm R W Mann and Company as commenting on AirTran Airways’ move, “Having Internet availability on all flights, rather than just some, could give AirTran an edge. There can be a problem when not every airplane has it; there is a certain amount of disappointment when somebody is ready to use his Wi-Fi and then realises that he can’t.”

American Airlines, which had tested in-flight internet on 15 of its trans-continental flights for a year in 2008, has announced that it plans to set up the device on at least 300 of its domestic flights.

Virgin America, which offers Wi-Fi on some of its flights, said recently that it would provide internet on all 28 of its flights by Memorial Day.

While Delta Airlines says it has Wi-Fi in place on about half of its 300 domestic planes and that its entire fleet would offer the service by September 2009, United Airlines has declared that it plans to install in-flight internet service on flights between California and New York in the second half of 2009.

Meanwhile, Southwest Airlines is testing in-flight internet service on some of its aircraft.

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