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Alaska Airlines starts testing satellite-based Wi-Fi services [Update]

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Alaska Airlines has announced that they’ve started testing Row 44’s satellite-based Wi-Fi service on a handful of Boeing 737-700s. The first trial flight will take place between Seattle and San Jose (leaves Seattle at 2:20 PT today and returns on Flight 329 from San Jose back to Seattle) and the service will be free for 60 days. After today that aircraft will shift routes, which includes anything going up and down the West Coast and Alaska. No exact date has been attached to the trial (but I would assume it’s today or sometime this week) and pricing hasn’t been set, but I’d imagine it’s close to what VA or AA is charging for Aircell’s Gogo service.

SEATTLE — Alaska Airlines today will launch a customer trial of its new satellite-based wireless Internet service. Named Alaska Airlines Inflight Wi-Fi, the service can be used inflight on any Wi-Fi enabled device such as a laptop, smartphone or portable media player.
Onboard Alaska Airlines’ specially-equipped Boeing 737-700 passengers will now be able to engage in a range of activities including browsing the Web; accessing online music, games, podcasts and webcasts; sending and receiving e-mail; and connecting to Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). The service will be free at the start of the trial, which is scheduled to begin on an afternoon flight between Seattle and San Jose, Calif., and will run for about 60 days. After a successful trial period, the airline will determine the schedule for rolling out the commercial availability of its wireless Internet service to its entire fleet of aircraft.
“We’re thrilled to be able to offer our passengers a way to stay connected to what matters most to them while en route to their destinations,” said Steve Jarvis, Alaska’s vice president of marketing, sales and customer experience. “This is a service that everyone can use, whether it’s for business or entertainment. Our service gives passengers a choice in how they spend their time while traveling and enhances the inflight experience.”
Alaska Airlines and Row 44 have cooperated for more than two years to bring this service to market. “Alaska Airlines continues its long track record of deploying innovative technologies,” said John Guidon, CEO for Row 44. “We are proud to be associated with their team and thrilled that such a forward-thinking airline selected Row 44’s inflight satellite broadband service.”
The airline conducted extensive ground and inflight tests of the technology prior to the launch of the service trial to ensure the system does not interfere with aircraft navigation equipment. In addition, the aircraft equipment has received complete airworthiness certification from the Federal Aviation Administration. The service is being offered on a trial basis and has not yet received final Federal Communications Commission approval.
As Henry Harteveldt, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research said in a recent article entitled “Online on High” on CNN.com, “I expect there to be two groups of airlines: those that have announced plans to have Internet access and those that will wonder why they have lost passengers.”

Internet for everyone
Alaska Airlines Inflight Wi-Fi works with a broad range of Wi-Fi-enabled devices and will allow business and leisure travelers the convenience of a high-speed network comparable to their office or home connection. The Inflight Wi-Fi splash page contains live news, music, shopping and links to practical services on Alaska’s award-winning Web site, alaskaair.com. Additionally, passengers can:

* Browse the Web
* Access online music, games, podcasts, webcasts, etc.
* Instant message friends, family and colleagues
* Send and receive e-mail
* Access corporate networks via VPN

Alaska has long pioneered technology to improve the customer experience. The airline was the first in North America to sell tickets online in 1995 and, four years later, was the first carrier worldwide to offer Internet check-in and boarding passes.

Pricing and availability
Final pricing for the service has not been determined. The airline plans to use customer feedback to design a flexible pricing structure that will be affordable and competitive with other services in the industry.

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