United Puts Wireless Internet on p.s.

American and Virgin America have wi-fi onboard, Delta is beginning installation, Alaska and Southwest are looking to do testing, and well, Continental is at least putting live TV on their planes. But United hadn’t done anything, until now. United will roll out wireless internet on its p.s. flights between New York/JFK and both San Francisco and Los Angeles in “the second half of this year.”

What took United so long to get in the game? They actually started off very early but then fell silent for a long time. I had completely forgotten about this, but spokesperson Robin Urbanski reminded me that back in June 2005, back when I still worked at United, the airline had its 757s certified by the FAA for wi-fi.

Once she mentioned it, the memories came flooding back. I remember thinking how great it would be, but that was three and a half years ago. Others have been at it for awhile, so why did they wait? Urbanski said, ” . . .we wanted to make sure we selected the right service provider that can offer us something that was most cost-effective and most importantly, reliable for our customers.”

So United really sat on the sideline on this one for a long time. They’ve finally now decided they’ve found the right mix of cost-effectiveness and reliability, I guess. But was something else at play here? Urbanski says no, but we all know the competition between United and American over the years has always been fierce. I still have to wonder if American’s addition of wi-fi to their transcontinental routes finally pushed United to act.

Either way, it will be harder for you to fly a plane between New York and LA/SF without internet than with it in the near future. That’s great news for everyone, but probably most of all for AirCell which has the contract with United, American, and Virgin America.

Will United put this on other airplanes as well? It’s unclear. The release simply says, “United and Aircell will assess customer feedback to determine additional rollout plans.” It’s sad to see that United took so long to get onboard here, especially considering their head start, but it’s nice to see it finally getting into gear.

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