In-Flight Wi-Fi Still Costly, but More Available

Airborn WiFi8,700 domestic flights or 38 percent of the total, now offer Internet connectivity, according to Routehappy.com, reports The New York Times.

It remains to be seen, however, how viable in-flight Wi-Fi will be as a business — though Gogo, which leads the field with systems on more than 80 percent of all Wi-Fi-enabled flights in North America, had an initial public offering on Friday.

So far, only a small number of passengers have been choosing to pay for Wi-Fi, which can cost $12 or more per session. Gogo, for example, said that in the first quarter of this year, 6.2 percent of passengers on planes with its Wi-Fi systems opted for its service, a slight improvement from the 5.6 percent who took it in the 2012 first quarter.

Gogo, which has its air-to-ground-based system in more than 1,900 airplanes flying domestically, plans to use proceeds of the stock offering partly to finance a planned international rollout using Ku-band satellite technology, which allows the service to work over oceans. That will enable the company to sell its services on overseas flights.

According to the Routehappy report, which is based on current data from domestic and international commercial flights, the 38 percent of daily domestic flights that have Wi-Fi service cover nearly half of all actual flight time, because planes used on longer flights are more likely to be equipped with the service.

And, the report adds, “international Wi-Fi is becoming a reality, with 38 daily international flights from the U.S. offering it, and another 241 international flights having “a chance of Wi-Fi or cellular roaming” on various airlines.

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