>American Airlines switches up wi-fi providers, Gogo pushes new satellite service and raises prices
In the latest airline effort to bring faster in-flight Wi-Fi to customers, American Airlines plans to move away from Gogo as the supplier for much of its domestic fleet, shifting that business to ViaSat instead.
According to the travel industry news site Skift.com, AA plans to make the switch to ViaSat on more than 500 domestic aircraft – although the changeover is expected to take several years.
Early this year, Gogo agreed to release American from an exclusivity clause in its Wi-Fi contract after the carrier had sued the provider for that relief so that it could look for a higher-speed alternative.
As a result, in June of this year American signed a deal with ViaSat to bring that firm’s satellite-based Wi-Fi technology to the 100 new Boeing 737 Max aircraft that it has ordered. And now AA is extending that embrace of ViaSat to hundreds more of its planes.
Although American had been one of Gogo’s first airline customers – a relationship going back to 2008 – it became troubled by the provider’s reliance on ground-based cell towers for aircraft communication as other suppliers developed faster satellite-based links. Gogo has since caught up with the trend by rolling out its own next-generation 2Ku satellite-based technology, and American will still go ahead with plans to install that on 140 of its aircraft.
Meanwhile, AA is using yet another supplier – Panasonic – to provide Wi-Fi on its long-haul international fleet. ViaSat has been moving quickly into the U.S. airline market; it also has deals with JetBlue, United and Virgin America.
Gogo continues to accumulate new business from its 2Ku satellite system. It recently signed on Air France-KLM, which plans to install it on 120 planes. In its recent earnings report, Gogo said it now has contracts for 2Ku Wi-Fi service on 1,500 aircraft of 13 airlines.
And Gogo continues to seek revenue boosts by raising its prices for passengers. Last month, the company raised the price from $16 to $19 for a full-day Wi-Fi pass purchased in advance in the Gogo website– although that is still a much better deal than the $50 or more you’ll pay in flight.
What’s been your recent experience using inflight wi-fi? Is it getting better or worse? On my Virgin America flight to/from DC last week, I was pleasantly surprised at the speed and reliability of the connection, but that’s not always the case!
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