Internet Connections in the Air
TORONTO – Travel – Getting connected online is getting easier. Air Canada and Westjet are moving quickly to add Wifi in-flight service for customers.
Air Canada, the first Canadian carrier to offer customers in-flight Wi-Fi connectivity, plans to begin rolling out connectivity across its North American fleet in May under an agreement with Gogo®, the airline announced in a release issued today from one of its Wi-Fi-equipped aircraft. The agreement will also provide for future type-testing of Gogo satellite solutions for Wi-Fi on international flights.
Westjet is planning to start offering Panasonic’s new exW inflight entertainment system on its flights in the last quarter of 2014. The Westject system will stream content, enable live TV and WiFi on the personal electronic devices, tablets and laptops of passengers.
“Air Canada continually seeks to enhance the travel experience and that is why we are pleased to be the first airline in Canada to offer in-flight Wi-Fi connectivity to customers flying over continental North America. In today’s connected world, our customers want to access email, mobile device applications and the internet wherever they are, both to increase their work productivity and expand their leisure options. The introduction of Wi-Fi across our narrow-body North American fleet will be another welcome amenity for customers, who already enjoy the award-winning service of North America’s Best Airline,” said Benjamin Smith, Executive Vice-President and Chief Commercial Officer.
Air Canada presently has two Wi-Fi-equipped Airbus 319 aircraft operating in Canada and the U.S. and, subject to a final agreement with Gogo, plans to begin outfitting its remaining Airbus A319, A320 and A321 and Embraer 190 fleet types, as well as its Air Canada Express CRJ-705 and Embraer 175 aircraft, with Air-To-Ground Wi-Fi connectivity. The installations are to begin in May with the goal of equipping 29 aircraft in 2014 and a targeted completion date of December 2015 for the designated 130 narrow-body aircraft. The system offers peak connection speeds comparable to mobile broadband services available on the ground. Current regulations prohibit the use of cellular phones for voice communication. Pricing will be competitive with other in-flight Wi-Fi connectivity offerings.
Gogo has also provided Air Canada the opportunity to type-trial two satellite-based systems, using Gogo 2KU and Inmarsat GlobalXpress KA-band solutions. These tests are expected to be conducted in 2015. The results will help determine future connectivity options that can be considered as the technology continues to evolve.Onboard Internet is already offered onboard 500 other carriers. There is a combination of free Wifi and paid Wifi.