US Airways Joins the WiFi Party

US Airways has been talking about doing something for inflight entertainment onboard ever since they pulled movies several months ago. Last week, they finally made a move. They’re introducing wireless internet access onboard via AirCell, but it’s only on a small piece of the fleet.

The plan is to make WiFi available on all A321 aircraft. They say they have 50 in the fleet, but I think there are only 40 as of today. It is, however, a fleet that has been rapidly expanding – there have been a few deliveries so far this year. The A321 is meant to be the workhorse for transcontinental flying going forward. That’s why it makes sense to have that fleet receive WiFi over others. Here’s the current map of where the planes are flying, courtesy of US Airways:

US Airways Wifi Flights

As you can see, these aircraft fly mostly on long haul routes, so WiFi is most helpful on these planes. Oh, there is one problem. US Airways has disabled the power ports on its domestic fleet, so you’ll need to bring some extra batteries. It’s annoying when an airline has no power ports onboard, but it’s doubly annoying when they actually turn them off. (The newest deliveries are coming in without the powerports installed at all.)

This is the first onboard inflight entertainment enhancement from US Airways in a long time, unless you count the reinstatement of free sodas and water as entertainment. (I don’t.) They have been talking about trying to put in seat video on board their fleet (pay per use), but at last check, the financing still wasn’t there for a project like that. Lots of people have been talking about whether US Airways has enough cash to survive (this seems like an annual ritual, whether true or not), so isn’t it surprising that they’d be spending money on the internet? I’m guessing AirCell is making them an offer they can’t refuse.

If I had to guess, I’d imagine that US Airways is paying little or nothing to have this installed on the fleet, and that’s why they’ve moved forward. The name of the game is watching cash, and if US Airways had to shell out a lot, they just wouldn’t be doing this. They are smart about financial management over there, and any large cash outlay just isn’t going to happen without a good return. And I doubt this project would provide them with a good, tangible return. AirCell, on the other hand, wants to cement its status as the WiFi provider for the domestic world, so they might be willing to pay for this in exchange for collecting the revenues.

So, good news for those US Airways customers who have been bored by the lack of any sort of entertainment onboard those transcon flights. Now you’ll have internet. For now, it’ll probably be a crapshoot to find which flights have it and which don’t, but eventually they’ll have it displayed at usairways.com.

[Updated on 7/28 at 348p to fix wording around US Airways bringing back soda and water]

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