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In-Flight Wi-Fi Becoming More Common, But Still Expensive

by Sean P. Aune | July 17, 2010July 17, 2010 2:00 pm PST

Internet connectivity on planes was once considered a dream.  The ability to do work on a long flight, checking your e-mail, staying in contact with your office and so on was something business people would kill for.  Well, not only is that day finally here, but its appearing on more and more planes … but no one seems to be using it.

Delta Wi-FiIt is now reported that one in three planes in the United States is offering in-flight Wi-Fi.  The vast majority of these planes are handled by Gogo Inflight for airlines such as Delta and American Airlines, and some like Southwest Airlines are handled by Row 44.

While all of this is well and good, it seems that only ten percent of passengers with the ability to access Wi-Fi do so.  Some passengers don’t like the high rates, others don’t want to be connected 24/7 and others say their flights are too short to bother with it.  I have to agree with that last group.  If I was flying for three hours or more I might do it, but seeing as I rarely have flights that long, I’ll probably continue to go without.

To make sure their investment doesn’t go totally down the tubes, the companies are looking into getting sponsors such as Google to pay for everyone to access the flying wi-fi for free.  It is expected that this may happen by mid-2011, and many different scenarios are being looked into to make it free for customers.  It’s working for Amtrak trains, so no reason it shouldn’t work in the skies also.

I personally think part of the problem isn’t just price, but also physical space.  Plane seats have gotten tighter and tighter over the years, and you put down the tray and attempt to work, it just isn’t comfortable.  As tablets become more common you might see more people getting online as they will be easier to work in close quarters, but even that isn’t assured.

What say you?  Have you/would you use in-flight Wi-Fi?  What do you think of the concept?

Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...