United Airlines Launches Satellite-Based Wi-Fi Service on Its Flights

A woman works on her laptop computer while sitting as a passenger on an airplane. Photograph ©istockphoto.com by Gene Chutka.

United Airlines has introduced satellite-based Wi-Fi internet technology aboard the first of its international aircraft — a Boeing 747 airplane equipped with the Ku-band satellite technology of Panasonic Avionics Corporation — becoming the first international carrier based in the United States to offer its passengers the ability to stay connected while traveling on long-haul routes across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Passengers will have the choice of two speeds of Internet Wi-Fi service:

  • Standard priced initially between $3.99 and $14.99 depending on the duration of flight, and
  • Accelerated priced initially between $5.99 and $19.99 and offering faster download speeds than Standard.

In addition, United Airlines has also outfitted Ku-band satellite Wi-Fi technology on two Airbus A319 aircraft serving domestic routes in the United States, offering its passengers faster inflight Internet service than air-to-ground technology.

Installation of satellite-based WiFi technology on 300 mainline aircraft is expected to be completed by the end of this year — and FlyerTalk members could not be any happier.

United Airlines will install satellite-based Wi-Fi technology on the following aircraft models currently in its fleet:

  • Airbus A319
  • Airbus A320
  • Boeing 737
  • Boeing 747
  • Boeing 757
  • Boeing 767
  • Boeing 777
  • Boeing 787

Passengers will be able to use their wireless devices such as laptop computers, “smartphones” and tablets aboard the aforementioned aircraft to connect with Internet service using the in-flight hotspot.

According to FlyerTalk member UA Insider — also known as Shannon Kelly, who was the director of customer insights at United Airlines but is now the director of e-commerce planning and delivery — pricing for satellite-based Wi-Fi Internet service will vary depending on a number of factors, including the length of the flight and the speed selected. Once the satellite-based Wi-Fi technology becomes available on more aircraft on United Airlines, additional purchase options are expected to be phased in, such as day passes. No discounts are currently provided for Premier elite members or customers seated in premium-class cabins.

Although Gogo — a competitor of Panasonic Avionics Corporation — reportedly plans to eventually convert its land-based service to satellite-based technology, it announced a few weeks ago that rates for its current services would increase this month.

Might the rate increase now be bad timing for Gogo?

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