The next 10 Airbus A320s delivered to Virgin America Airlines will have a new passenger enhancement: Satellite-based Wi-Fi that the carrier says will deliver data speeds eight to 10 times faster than any other in-flight Wi-Fi systems.
Virgin said it is partnering with ViaSat, Inc. — the same company that JetBlue is using for its next-generation Fly-Fi service. Virgin’s fleet is currently equipped with Gogo’s ground-based Wi-Fi service.
While the new satellite technology will be installed on the next 10 new planes to be delivered, “the airline has not yet made a technology decision with respect to the rest of the fleet,” a spokesman told TravelSkills. That could prove troublesome for Virgin America regulars who hold annual or monthly Gogo passes and expect the service on every plane.
So it sounds like Gogo’s deal with Virgin could be under review. Hmm. Stay tuned…
In any case, the first of those new planes will start flying for Virgin in September of this year, and will offer free Internet service during a testing period. Virgin said it has not yet determined passenger pricing for the ViaSat links, which it noted will also make Wi-Fi available on over-water flights like the Hawaii service it will begin later this year.
“With this new technology, Virgin America will become the first commercial airline to offer an in-flight Wi-Fi service that can operate in both Ku- and Ka-band satellite networks on the same aircraft,” the spokesman said. Ka-band technology provides greater digital bandwidth than the earlier Ku-band.
With the ViaSat service, Virgin said, passengers should achieve Internet speeds like those they can get at home, allowing for streaming video on their connected devices. The new satellite partnership news comes just a month after Virgin announced an improved version of its Red in-flight entertainment system, called Red Beta. That will bring new high-resolution seatback screens and a new Android-based platform to the airline’s fleet.
NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: Two new nonstops to India + New Centurion lounge opens + Planespotting 101: Airbus + Pay to join loyalty programs? + More!