As many frequent travelers know by now, Google is sponsoring free in-flight Wi-Fi on AirTran, Delta and Virgin America through January 2. That’s a great thing!
However, as often happens when something is free, you end up getting what you pay for.
Over the last several days I’ve heard from several readers experiencing frequent outages or poor connections when using in-flight Wi-Fi. This sounded unusual to me because, as a frequent user of the Gogo system, I’ve been very impressed with its ease of use, great connections and lack of any technical difficulties at all.
But it sounds like that’s not the case this month. Here’s a sampling of emails I’ve received:
>“Just flew Denver-Atlanta. Bumped off three times.” -R.S.
>“I had lots of outages on a flight to Las Vegas two weeks ago. I would have rather paid and had it work.” -J.B.
>“Last week I flew up to Charlotte from Atlanta and to Miami this week. Gogo fails constantly and is unreliable now. I would rather be given an option to pay for the connection, versus what I experience now.” –D.O.
The TICKET contacted a spokesperson for Aircell/Gogo to inquire about the outages. Here’s her response:
Anytime we give away Gogo access for free, we see the usage soar through the roof. This holiday promotion has been no different and almost every day is a new usage record for us. Pushing the boundaries certainly makes the system run a bit slower, and there are some situations in which we’re limiting the number of users who can get on the web on a given flight. Though a passenger might perceive that we’re having a technical issue, the reality is that we’re managing the network such that we permit the maximum number of passengers to use Gogo without degrading the experience too much. As you can imagine, that’s a tricky balance to strike – and while it has the potential to leave a few travelers unhappy, we think most are pretty pleased.
I’ve also heard from other airline insiders that the problem is especially acute when flying around the Atlanta area. This of course is due to the fact that both AirTran and Delta are the two carriers operating the most flights in the world with in-flight Wi-Fi—and the pipe is just not fat enough. Apparently, recent usage levels are close to 50 percent of passengers, up from the normal 5-10 percent.
So enjoy it while it’s free—if you can get on. Connections should improve when the freebie is over on January 3.
Have YOU experienced any recent connectivity issues lately when using Wi-Fi on AirTran, Delta or Virgin America? LET US KNOW what happened! Leave your comments below.
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