Joining the club of "low cost carriers" (I hate to even use that misleading term) that offer or plan to offer wireless internet aboard their aircraft, JetBlue signed a deal today that will put satellite broadband internet and TV service on each of the 160 planes in its fleet.
JetBlue has partnered with ViaSat Inc. in this endeavor, estimated to cost about $15-20 million. Unlike Go-Go and other ground-based internet services offered by other airlines, ViaSat will offer connectivity even when flying overwater. Installation will not begin until until the end of 2012.
JetBlue will join Alaska, Virgin America, AirTran, Delta, and American who already offer Wi-Fi on many flights, and United who offers Wi-Fi on "premium service" flights between New York and San Francisco/Los Angeles. Southwest Airlines has also announced plans to install Wi-Fi throughout its fleet (and will likely offer it fleet wide before JetBlue installs it on its first aircraft). Continental announced plans to install Wi-Fi on select aircraft last year, but has not yet followed through.
Although Wi-Fi has great benefits, including the theoretical ability to rebook yourself from your seat during irr-ops and to order food and drink from your seat, there are two concerns that continue to make me question whether Wi-Fi is viable, at the present time. First, pure and simply, it is too expensive. Even when I’m travelling in premium cabins on flights with Wi-Fi, I see very few travelers forking over the money to use it. That links into my second reason for my skepticism, that many (myself included) enjoy flying partly because we are able to disconnect for a few hours: it’s the only time of the day when I’m not checking my e-mail every 20 minutes.
But as the price for this technology drops, I am confident that in time I will be checking my e-mail onboard too. Whether that’s a sign of progress or not can be debated.