Airlines going Wi-Fi

Delta says it will offer Internet access on majority of its domestic seats by next summer. Other airlines pushing ahead.

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By Lara Moscrip, CNNMoney.com contributing writer

The airline fee I dislike most is:
  • Fuel surcharge
  • Baggage fee
  • Pillow and blanket charge
  • Coffee and water charge

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Several major airlines are planning to soon start offering Wi-Fi access to their passengers.

On Tuesday, Delta Air Lines announced that will provide broadband access to domestic passengers this fall.

Delta (DAL, Fortune 500) has struck an agreement with Aircell to offer Wi-Fi to laptops, smartphones, PDAs and other devices, according to a statement from the airline.

Delta is pushing to have its entire mainline fleet of more than 330 planes Wi-Fi enabled by the end of next summer. The service will not be available aboard Delta's fleet of smaller aircraft, which typically seat 50 to 75 people, according to a Delta spokeswoman. The Internet service will be available on about 60% of Delta seats flown everyday, the spokeswoman said.

Passengers will be able to connect to the Internet through Aircell's "Gogo" portal. Wi-Fi will be available to passengers in first-class and economy seats for a flat fee of $9.95 for flights three hours or shorter and for $12.95 on longer trips, according to the airline.

Once an airplane equipped with Wi-Fi reaches 10,000 feet and the captain gives approval, passengers can turn on their electronic devices and log in, according to Gogo's Web site.

"The advent of Air-To-Ground technology has made broadband connectivity in the cabin economically viable for the first time for commercial airlines," Jack Blumenstein, president and CEO of Aircell, said in a statement.

According to a spokeswoman for Aircell, American Airlines (AMR, Fortune 500) and Virgin America have signed contracts with Aircell and are testing the service on their flights.

A spokesperson for American Airlines said that the carrier will offer Gogo's Wi-Fi service on a trial basis on cross-country flights starting this year.

Virgin America will offer the Gogo service starting this fall and plans to install Wi-Fi on its entire fleet by the end of April 2009, a spokeswoman for Virgin America said.

Southwest Airlines (LUV, Fortune 500) plans to install an airborne broadband service through its provider, Row 44, starting this fall, a Southwest spokeswoman said. Once tests are completed, the airline will provide the service on four aircraft on a trial basis, she added. To top of page

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