LA Times update
Still too expensive for me most of the time. (On the ten hour PDX-AMS flight, Delta wanted $40 each way for WiFi! That's $4/hour.) I always have my netbook with some movies and TV shows on it, anyway. I can live a few hours with my email and without Facebook.
LA Times update
This will be nice for business travelers as most can expense the wifi fee.
I'm not sure airborne Wi-Fi is ready for "prime time" yet, given some of the growing pains they're experiencing. There's no way I'll be paying extra for low connection speeds, throttled connections and possibly erratic service. Flights to Europe cost quite enough already, and I can do without Wi-Fi for a few hours. If they start to allow voice calls during flights, I may have to give up flying.
I used Southwest's WiFi when they first rolled it out a few years ago and it was cheap for the intro. It worked surprisingly well, in fact, even if not very fast. Then again, I am using to using some pretty slow connections. I still use their "free WiFi version" on SW flights to access Southwest's website (to check schedules, flight status, get gate info, etc.) and it works OK.
Now Ken, don't forget there used to be a skyphone in every row and somehow we survived. Just barely. Everyone made the obligatory "Hey Mom I'm calling from an airplane!" call and never used the phone again.
Clearly airplane wifi is still a work in progress, people should be aware of that along with the (substantial) cost.
I only remember one or two Sky Phones at the back of the aircraft in the "old days", and people making calls usually stayed back there for some privacy. As I recall, the phones in the "old days" were all analog, and connecting with land-based towers. The calls they made didn't really bother anyone else. Providing cell service to an entire plane load of people will be a far different situation.
I remember the skyphones in every row, too, phred! I'm pretty sure I never used one.
If/when the wifi gets strong enough for Skype and Facebook there might be armed rebellion on the plane.
I had occasion to try airline Wi-Fi on a flight last Friday, and my experience so far is that it's useless! The service in this case was provided by a firm called gogoinflight, and I suspect this particular aircraft had an older system installed that used a connection with ground-based cell towers (rather than satellite). The route we were flying was mostly over mountains and wilderness, and there are no cell towers in that area, which would explain why no connection was available. The in-flight Wi-Fi doesn't become active until the aircraft is above 10K feet, so couldn't be used close to the airports at both ends (where cell service is available).
I was able to connect to the Wi-Fi network in the aircraft, but their Router was not connecting to the internet. I've seen that phenomenon before with Wi-Fi systems in various places. The two people beside me also tried and none of us were successful in getting a connection. After some research on gogoinflight, I concluded that the lack of connection may have saved me some money. That particular firm is also the subject of some "privacy" concerns.
Rates and pricing modells put me off. For deciding how much data transfer to buy I have to think about my needs. If they charge by the hour or minute, I feel obliged to use it intensively. If the connection is bad, I have to fill forms to get my money back, or don't get it back at all. Too much stress for me.
With that cut-throat competition for flat rate plans on the ground, providers need to be innovative to milk customers.
The Ski - Fi is probably doomed like the air phones were -- costs too much for the average person to afford.
Airlines like to argue that it costs them a lot to install these systems on the planes so they feel they must charge a lot to the users. But they also want to make profit from the systems so they charge the users a lot more. Which means almost no one uses the systems. Which means they have to charge the users even more to cover the costs. Which means fewer people use the systems. And so on. I just don't see the value in paying more for wi-fi on a 4 hour flight than I do for a month for near gigabit throughput at home and getting the crappy speed and dropped connections that remind me of the old 300 baud acoustic modems from back in the early 90's.
If I can't live without wifi for an 8-10 hour flight, I wouldn't get on the plane. I'd be on a psychiatrist's couch instead.
Philip, I think your age might be showing. Remember just a few years ago people said why on earth do I want to have a phone with me all the time? And then they said, why would I want a huge phablet to surf the web? Times change, I hate to think how many folks would go through major withdrawal if they were informed they would have access to the intergoogles for more than a few minutes. I'm not agreeing with them, just pointing it out.
And yes these are early days in airborne wifi, in a year or two it will become as standard as ... well as standard as a blanket and pillow used to be!
I carry my Android phone all of the time and even a laptop much of the time, but I can certainly live without internet and my phone for 8-10 hours. Not the end of the world.