American Airlines to test in-flight Wi-Fi

Lufthansa and others also considering in-flight Internet access

American Airlines Inc. will test in-flight Wi-Fi services across the U.S. starting next year, according to the airline and its Wi-Fi provider AirCell LLC.

Other airlines are reported by Engadget and others to have expressed interest or have planned tests for 2008 with similar in-flight technology, including Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Southwest Airlines Co. and Qantas Airways Ltd.

Business and leisure passengers on American flights would be able to e-mail and surf the Web from laptops and handheld devices while in flight aboard 767-200 aircraft primarily on transcontinental routes, according to a statement from Itasca, Ill.-based AirCell.

"We understand that broadband connectivity is important to our business customers and others who want to use their PDAs and laptops for real-time, in-flight broadband communications," said Dan Garton, executive vice president of marketing at American Airlines, in a statement.

The cost of the service was not announced, and American did not say whether passengers will be allowed to use Skype-type voice services from their devices to make voice calls. Some airlines have been concerned about voice calls in-flight disturbing other passengers nearby.

Lufthansa is also interested in adding in-flight Internet service.

"We would like to see the service relaunched as soon as possible and are in talks with a number of companies to form a new operating consortium," Lufthansa spokesman Michael Lamberty said today.

Lamberty declined to name the potential partners but said they could include satellite operators, wireless companies and content providers. One potential partner could be T-Mobile International AG, the wireless subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom AG, according to a report published on the Web site of The Wall Street Journal, which cited industry sources familiar with the negotiations.

Lufthansa, which equipped more than 60 of its 80 long-haul planes to provide Internet access, had offered the Connexion service from The Boeing Co. from early 2004 through the end of last year, when Boeing decided to shut it down, citing economic reasons.

John Blau of the IDG News Service in Germany contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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