US Airways joins growing list of airlines with Wi-Fi

Service starts on five planes and will expand to 51 aircraft by June 1

US Airways launched Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi service on five aircraft yesterday, joining eight other airlines working with wireless service provider Aircell.

US Airways plans to expand the Wi-Fi service from the initial five Airbus A321 aircraft to all 51 A321s by June 1, according to a statement from the airline and Aircell. Prices for Wi-Fi access to the Internet from a laptop, netbook or mobile device start at $4.95 for up to 90 minutes on mainland U.S. flights and will go up to $12.95 for more than three hours for a laptop or netbook.

Gogo is offered on about 700 planes, including all AirTran Airways and Virgin America flights and select Air Canada, American Airlines, Delta Airlines and United Airlines flights. Aircell is also working with Alaska Airlines and Continental Airlines to add Wi-Fi, with Alaska deploying GoGo on its fleet throughout the year, and Continental expected to go live in the summer, a spokeswoman said.

Initially, US Airways will put a Wi-Fi symbol on the outside of a Gogo-equipped plane to alert passengers, along with displaying the symbol throughout the cabin. By late June, passengers will be able to tell whether Wi-Fi is available on a specific flight when booking travel online.

First-time Gogo users get one free session through June 1, and from June 1 to June 8 free access will be available to everyone onboard a Wi-Fi-equipped flight.

An Aircell executive said in January that the company plans to launch an in-flight video-downloading service later this year.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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