We all know that the FCC prohibits the use of cellular phones and other wireless devices on aircraft while they’re in the air – it’s been that way forever. Around 2004 though, they were asked to lift the ban so that passengers could talk on their phones while flying. The FCC said no to that but what they have said yes to is high-speed Internet access for laptop computers because they operate on frequencies different from those used for wireless services on the ground. With the green light from the FCC, it appears as though airlines like jetBlue and American Airlines are slowly making Wi-Fi available to their passengers.
If by chance you’ll be riding the “BetaBlue” Airbus A320 operated by JetBlue anytime soon, you will have free in-flight access to Yahoo Instant Messaging and Yahoo Mail. How it works is once the aircraft reaches 10,000 feet, the Wi-Fi will be enabled and passengers with a flash-enabled browser will be able to use the aforementioned Yahoo services. My first thought was “what good is this?” because only a certain percentage of people use Yahoo, so this won’t benefit everybody. My second thought though, was that this is a start and it can only mean the offering will get better in the future. Hopefully, eventually, they’ll offer unlimited Wi-Fi access on all flights.
And while we’re on the topic of Wi-Fi coming to the sky, here’s a quick reminder of the announcement that American Airlines made several months ago explaining they’ll soon be offering Wi-Fi service in 2008. Certain planes will essentially become Wi-Fi hotspots where passengers will be required to pay $10 per flight to gain Internet access. Rumor has it that planes will be equipped by the time Spring rolls around. The only downside we could face is simply space! If you’re a passenger in coach, there’s really not a whole lot of room for a laptop. It fits, but it’s a tight squeeze, especially when the passenger in front of you unexpectedly and quickly reclines their seat all the way back!
Regardless of any downsides there may be, Wi-Fi is slowly making its way to the sky which could make long flights (assuming you’ve got a great battery with a long life) a bit more enjoyable, especially if you’re an Internet junkie like I assume you are.