In-flight broadband soft-launches on American Airlines

American Airlines Wednesday flew the first commercial jet with in-flight broadband enabled since the shutdown of Connexion by Boeing in 2006. American's Boeing 767-200 was to make a routine, scheduled round-trip from JFK to Los Angeles International (LAX) on Wednesday; American and its provider Aircell haven't provided follow-up detail yet. On the maiden test flights, service was free.

American said Tuesday that they'd be ready to go live with all 15 of its Boeing 767-200 planes in a few weeks. They run these planes only on cross-country routes to and from JFK, flying to San Francisco International, LAX, and Miami's airport. When the service branded as "Gogo" launches, it will cost US$12.95 per flight. When Aircell starts to serve Virgin America with Gogo later this year, it will charge $9.95 for flights of three hours or fewer.

American choose its 767-200 fleet partly for uniformity, as the FAA has to approve equipment in conjunction with specific plane models; partly for duration, since these craft all fly cross-country routes; and partly for power. Their 767-200s have Empower DC outlets at all first-class and business-class seats, but also scattered throughout coach. (Consult American's site for the plane's diagram when booking.)

Don't expect cable modem speeds, but Aircell should be able to give each plane about 2 Mbps per second up and down, and they promise to prioritize data to make sure one passenger doesn't bogart the pipe.

And don't worry about a loud talker next to you. American said that voice calls and chats are strictly banned, that Aircell will be using technical means to enforce it, and that cabin crew would also be involved in preventing VoIP's use in flights. Customers don't want it, American said, and surveys strongly agree with them.

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