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Internet Email, Messaging Coming to a Flight Near You

By® Staff

Originally Posted

Sometime after the turn of the year, several international airlines will begin testing satellite broadband service -- high-altitude, high-speed Internet service: real-time email, Instant messaging, Web browsing, and, of course, interactive gaming. You'll be able to log on to CornerBarPR.comSM while you're in the air.

Today's systems are simple: They connect with ground networks from time to time -- pretty difficult if you're flying across the Atlantic -- and keep their data on an on-board server. The new satellite systems will allow a constant feed at speeds comparable to cable modems, not 15-minute updates. In the future, "voice-over-Internet" technology may allow phone calls; mobile phone use presently is banned.

American, Delta, and United Airlines first showed interest in the technology a couple of years ago, but plans changed once the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks decimated passenger traffic.

Although airlines are positioning the service -- which doubtless will be a winner -- as a productivity tool, it is the collective appeal of incremental revenue, improved customer loyalty, and additional perks for first class and business class passengers that is focusing new attention on the improved technology.

Boeing's Connexion service will debut on Lufthansa flights between Frankfurt and Washington, DC. The airline plans to hook passengers with free Connexion access for three months. Next up are SAS, British Airways (about $30 per flight), and Japan Airlines.

Verizon's JetConnect ($5.99 per flight) and Airbus's Tenzig Communications already offer limited systems. Tenzing customers, including Cathay Pacific, Varig, and Virgin Atlantic, have email access and short text messaging.

Depending on your point of view, the skies either are getting friendlier or more intrusive. We suggest you use the new-found time doing media relations work with Contacts On Tap™.

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