Surf’s Up: In-Flight Internet is on the Rise
On Wednesday, American Airlines expanded its availability of in-flight Internet services, essentially granting everyone with a laptop, BlackBerry, or other Wi-Fi-enabled device the ability to stay plugged in once they hit the skies. Services are available for $12.95 per flight on Boeing 767-200 airplanes connecting New York with Los Angeles and San Francisco with Miami.
American isn’t the first airline to offer such services. JetBlue has been connecting passengers for free on its BetaBlue aircraft since December 2007, as has Air France on its Airbus A318 jets. Other international airlines such as Qantas in Australia and Dubai’s Emirates airlines offer similar services. Domestically, Delta, Southwest, and other airlines also have in-flight Wi-Fi programs in the works.
Photo courtesy of IgoUgo member rokiss.ch.
This bit of news could be a huge relief to those of us who spend a fair amount of time in the air. For business travelers, in-flight Internet is conceivably a great way to stay in the loop while on a lengthy flight to an important meeting–or a critical means of putting out fires in need of immediate address. Plus, it’s easy to see the benefits of the World Wide Web when contrasted with the familiar alternatives: staring glassy-eyed out at unchanging clouds, leafing through dated magazines (half-finished crosswords have got to be among my biggest pet peeves of all time), or chit-chatting with the stranger next to you who smells like onions and won’t stop leaning on your armrest.
That said, there are potential downsides to the emergence of the Internet on airplanes. Concerns have been voiced about the content of sites perused–for example, whether certain websites should be allowed in the vicinity of small children (although apparently airlines already have measures in place for similar issues with inappropriate books, magazines, and general conduct). Personally, I’d be a bit irked if someone in an aisle seat next to me was nose-deep in their laptop for the entirety of a long flight. I’m not too excited about the prospect of having to cause a big commotion each time I get up to use the restroom.
There’s also the age-old lament about the disappearance of yet another safe haven where we can just unplug and tune out the world in general. But since similar concerns have probably been voiced about the advent of everything from the phonograph to the iPhone, I’m not too sure about the weight of this particular argument. That’s progress, my friends. Love it or leave it.
What do you think about in-flight Internet? Is it a blessing, or another burden in the long list of airline woes?
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