Alaska Airlines launches in-flight wireless internet service on 60-day trial

Monday, March 2, 2009, 4:33 by Aviation Correspondent

Alaska Airlines, based in Seattle, Washington, the United States, has launched in-flight wireless internet service on a trial basis for passengers using Wi-Fi-enabled notebooks, smartphones and other personal electronics devices having wireless internet access.

The carrier said in a statement that the satellite-based service, provided by Row 44, was being developed for the last two years. (Row 44, based in California, the United States, specialises in providing onboard broadband connectivity for passengers, cockpit and crew of commercial aircraft.)

The in-flight wireless internet service will be available on Alaska Airlines’ specially-outfitted Boeing 737-700 passenger aircraft.

The most common features offered, according to Alaska Airlines, will be Web browsing, online music and games, e-mail, IM chat and connections to virtual private networks (VPNs).

Alaska Airlines is offering the 60-day trial free of charge on afternoon flights on the West Coast routes – between Seattle (Washington) and San Jose (California).

The airline said it would, after the trial period, develop a schedule for expanding the in-flight wireless internet service to its other flights and aircraft.

The in-flight Wi-Fi splash page, Alaska Airlines statement added, would also feature live news, music, shopping as well as links to practical services on Alaska Airlines’ website.

Pricing for the in-flight wireless internet service, once the free 60-day trial period is over, has not been decided since the airline is depending on customer feedback to arrive at a pricing structure, the statement said.
The airline explained that it “plans to use customer feedback to design a flexible pricing structure that will be affordable and competitive with other services in the industry.”
After a successful period of trial, Alaska Airlines would determine the possibility expanding the wireless internet service to its entire fleet, the statement said.
Testing of the internet service has shown that the new in-flight facility does not interfere with aircraft navigation equipment, the carrier said, adding that the United States Federal Communications Commission has not given the internet service final approval, which is required for the service to be offered permanently.
Other United States-based carriers such as United Airlines, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines at present offer in-flight Wi-Fi service on certain flights.