JetBlue Launching Free In-Flight WiFi In 2016 - InformationWeek

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10/15/2015
12:05 PM
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JetBlue Launching Free In-Flight WiFi In 2016

JetBlue will be able to offer free WiFi service across its entire fleet by the fall of 2016.

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Low-cost airline carrier JetBlue is stepping up its efforts to provide its customers with free in-flight WiFi. The company announced that it has completed installation of Fly-Fi -- the name of its satellite-based service -- on its fleet of more than 150 Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft.

In addition, JetBlue's first Fly-Fi-enabled E190 aircraft made its official inaugural flight this week. The airline anticipates it will complete the installation of Fly-Fi on all 60 of its E190s by fall 2016, at which point it will have finished the installation of Fly-Fi on the entire JetBlue fleet.

Fly-Fi uses Ka-band satellite technology to offer a broadband Internet experience similar to something customers have at home, including the ability to stream video and use multiple devices at once.

In an effort to improve the in-flight WiFi experience, JetBlue has also formed partnerships with a variety of media companies, including Amazon, MLB at Bat, and The Wall Street Journal.

(Image: rypson/iStockphoto)

(Image: rypson/iStockphoto)

JetBlue and Amazon are also preparing to bring unlimited, on-demand entertainment to passengers with the upcoming launch of Amazon Video onboard, giving Amazon Prime members instant streaming access to tens of thousands of movies and television episodes in-flight, at no additional cost with their membership.

"Soon every JetBlue customer will step onboard knowing their aircraft is equipped with free, fast Internet and entertainment, the same way they expect our friendly service and the most legroom in coach," Jamie Perry, vice president of brand and product development for JetBlue, wrote in an Oct. 14 statement. "Our Fly-Fi model has proven that there is a way to offer customers more without adding extra costs to their travel."

Customers connected to Fly-Fi, which boasts speeds of up to 20 Mbps per device, can also access content on The Hub, which hosts a growing collection of entertainment, educational content, news, and video from Vox Media, PBS, National Geographic, and others.

The company currently carries more than 32 million customers a year to 91 cities in the US, the Caribbean, and Latin America with an average of 875 daily flights.

Offering WiFi on domestic flights is not unusual, but JetBlue's complimentary service and focus on faster speeds could go a long way to assuaging customer complaints of spotty connectivity and middling value for money.

Virgin America's Gogo ATG-4 service also gets high marks, but there's more work to be done.

A 2014 report from Honeywell Aerospace indicated that in-flight WiFi is becoming increasingly influential on passengers' buying choices, including flight selections. In some cases, they will even pay more for a specific flight because of its wireless options.

[Read about AT&T offering WiFi calling.]

Nearly one in four (22%) surveyed admitted they've paid more for a flight with WiFi, and nearly one in five (17%) have switched from their preferred airline because another carrier had better WiFi offerings.

A more recent survey conducted by connected airline specialist SITA OnAir found that, while passengers want in-flight connectivity, very few expect to pay for it.

More than 20 airlines around the world are providing free in-flight WiFi today. According to SITA OnAir's estimates, more than double will do so by 2020.

Nathan Eddy is a freelance writer for InformationWeek. He has written for Popular Mechanics, Sales & Marketing Management Magazine, FierceMarkets, and CRN, among others. In 2012 he made his first documentary film, The Absent Column. He currently lives in Berlin. View Full Bio

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progman2000
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progman2000,
User Rank: Ninja
10/15/2015 | 4:43:47 PM
It's about freaking time
I hope the other carriers follow suit. Wifi should be available and you should not have to turn off your damn electronic devices. Come on already airlines!!!
vnewman2
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vnewman2,
User Rank: Ninja
10/15/2015 | 8:22:33 PM
Re: It's about freaking time
This is one of the reasons I've always liked JetBlue - it's the little that matter.  And although JetBlue has done some "typical airline" type of things like charging for checked bags - I understand their hand has been forced in order to stay competitive.  But wifi is turning into a necessity; not a luxury - and I'm glad somebody finally "gets it."  I just wish they flew to more cities.  Ditto to Virgin America.
Gary_EL
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Gary_EL,
User Rank: Ninja
10/16/2015 | 2:42:22 AM
Re: It's about freaking time
I just hope they keep the free TV for those of us who just want to veg out ☺
Whoopty
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Whoopty,
User Rank: Ninja
10/16/2015 | 7:45:55 AM
Pretty cool
It's pretty cool to see tech like this becoming more common place. I hope (and would imagine they are) taking appropriate security into account, like keeping this network well away from the one used for all important flight systems and communication with ground control. 

That said, I'm interested to see what sort of entertainment this type of connectivity would bring. There must be some new types of games that could be played in-flight because of it.
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
10/16/2015 | 12:53:13 PM
Re: Pretty cool
There's a definite need for strong security and segmentation.

I haven't flown JetBlue, but it sounds like truly free WiFi, unlike some carriers that only give you free WiFi for a very limited set of their own content.
vnewman2
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vnewman2,
User Rank: Ninja
10/16/2015 | 1:54:09 PM
Re: Pretty cool
If nothing else, one thing I would like to see come out of this is that Go Go wifi will have to lower their prices.  Since its inception, the prices have become completely unreasonable to the point where I refused to log on based on principle alone.
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
10/16/2015 | 2:01:12 PM
Re: Pretty cool
I second that sentiment. Usually, I prefer to veg a little during flights. The high cost or unavailability of WiFi gives me an excuse to unplug from work. However, sometimes there are things that have to get done and the ability, whether or not I use it, would be appreciated.
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
10/16/2015 | 11:00:22 PM
Re: Pretty cool
I can imagine that a lot of people will be very happy with having Wi-Fi on their flight.  I do know whether wifi connectivity will be an important factor that will impact customer choice from one airline to another. I know for business travelers it will be a great feature.  I use delta and I do not mind not having Wi-Fi on a flight.  Would IT professionals choose an airline and be willing to pay extra for Wi-Fi?
tjgkg
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tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
10/17/2015 | 8:00:16 AM
Re: Pretty cool
Sort of reminds me of the Air Phone from the late 90's. The airlines had these phones embedded into the back of a headrest so that people can use them to make calls. The prices were so insanely expensive that the AirPhone's soon disappeared. I think the wifi options will remain because our culture has completely changed from the "old days" but i think the prices will eventually come down.

The one thing i do NOT want to see is allowing cell phone calls on flights. That would be a catasrophe.
tjgkg
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tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
10/17/2015 | 8:04:25 AM
Re: Pretty cool
Some airlines (JetBlue I believe for one) already have free wifi. Others do not. While having wifi is a good feature on the surface, the question is how would the performance be if a lot of folks are using it at the same time? I ask this because i have run into problems at hotels with wifi and the performance is spotty at best-especially in Europe. Even worse if you are doing a Webex or Facetime.
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