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Wendy is an IFE Agent responsible for aggregating airline news specifically related to Inflight entertainment. She compiles stories relevant to business travelers, airline industry folks, marketers and tech geeks. IFE News doesn't create original content, but rather posts compelling editorial from global media outlets.

Plugged-in Airlines

By Jill Schensul (NorthJersey.com)

Peanuts, pretzels and pillows may be out, but electronics are in. In the airplane cabin, that is.

While cellphone service remains an obscure object of desire among U.S. carriers, it has caught on in Europe and the Middle East. Domestic passengers are not bereft of connections, however. Wi-Fi service is being fired up on the aircraft of more than a dozen carriers. In fact, Wi-Fi service is more widespread here than on European carriers.

Here’s a quick look at who offers what, and for how much. Keep in mind that not every aircraft in an airline’s fleet may be equipped with Wi-Fi or cell service. Some websites let you check to see if your particular flight is au courant; otherwise, call the airline (if they don’t charge a service fee for the use of a live person, that is).

A word about pricing. Airlines have occasionally offered special deals to “introduce” this or that service; and of course airlines have been known to hike fees and fares in a heartbeat. The cost of an in-flight cell call may be entirely based on your carrier’s roaming rates, or may be set by the airline itself.

Wi-Fi rates also vary, depending on the provider. In the U.S., GoGo is the major player and its prices are identical on all the carriers it serves (indicated below by the asterisk): $14.95 for a 24-hour pass, $39.95 for a monthly pass good on any carrier and flight that has GoGo service and $34 a month for unlimited service on a single airline. The Segment Pass is available for just one leg of a journey, and prices vary. Also, participating airlines may offer their own special pricing to customers. Go to gogoair.com for more information.

*Air Canada (aircanada.com/wi-fi): Wi-Fi on select A319 aircraft between Toronto or Montreal and Los Angeles. Single flight price is $9.95.

*Alaska Airlines (alaskaair.com/wifi): More than 90 percent of all flights offer Wi-Fi.

*AirTran (airtran.com): Entire fleet is Wi-Fi ready.

*American Airlines (aa.com): All Boeing 767-200 and select MD80 and 737 aircraft have Wi-Fi. You won’t know if your plane is equipped until 24 hours before flight time. $1.95 for 15 minutes on flights of 650 miles or less.

*Delta (delta.com): The entire mainline fleet and about a third of its regional jets are equipped with Wi-Fi.

*Frontier Airlines (frontierairlines.com): Available on Embraer 190 aircraft. Frequent Frontier flyers can pre-purchase a $24.95 Traveler Pass for unlimited monthly Wi-Fi access on Frontier.

JetBlue (jetblue.com): Will be Wi-Fi-ready by the end of the year.

Southwest (southwest.com/wifi/): About a third of the fleet has Wi-Fi, $5 per flight.

*United Airlines (united.com): Wi-Fi only on flights between JFK and both Los Angeles and San Francisco.

*US Airways (usairways.com) All Airbus A321 jets – about 60 percent of the fleet – are equipped for Wi-Fi now, expanding to 90 percent by the end of 2013.

*Virgin America: (virginamerica.com/vx/booking/wifi): Entire fleet offers Wi-Fi. $4.95 for flights less than 1 1/2 hours, $9.95 up to three hours, $17.95 for three hours or more, $34.95 Virgin America Traveler Pass on any GoGo-equipped planes.

*

International carriers offer not only Wi-Fi but cellphone service – although in most cases, cellphones can only be used for texting and data; no voice calls allowed. You need a standard international roaming contract and your network provider must have an agreement with the carrier’s service; most use OnAir (onair.aero).

Air New Zealand: Both voice and data on select flights. International roaming charges apply.

British Airways: Cell service limited to its twice-daily flights between London and JFK aboard its all-business class London City route. No voice calls. Rates are in line with those charged for international roaming and depend on your mobile service provider.

Lufthansa: (Lufthansa.com): Wi-Fi only, $14.50 for one hour, 24-hour pass costs about $26.

Qantas (Qantas.com): Currently in phase two of its in-flight connectivity trial. Wi-Fi available on select A380s flying the Sydney-Los Angeles and Melbourne-Los Angeles routes. Free for first class, charges apply for all other passengers. Qantas offers an alternative system on all A380, B747-400 and A330-300 aircraft: You can send and receive text messages, make voice calls and call seat to seat via the in-flight entertainment telephone handset. Text messages $1.90 each, voice calls $5 a minute worldwide.

Qatar Airways (qatarairways.com): Currently cellphone use is limited to data and texting, but there are plans to expand the availability and include voice calls.

Emirates (emirates.com/us): Cell service on more than 100 flights a day, including voice calls. OnAir Wi-Fi available on all A380 aircraft. All seats on all flights have satellite phones providing voice, SMS and email. $15 for laptops, $7.50 for other devices.

Air France and KLM will begin offering in-flight connectivity trials on long-haul flights beginning in early 2013, offering text messages and email as well as Internet service and, ultimately, live TV. A specially designed in-flight website will offer free features such as real-time news, TV channels and relevant airline and destination information.

Thai Airways: Will debut its Wi-Fi and mobile service sometime this year, with full roll-out completed by 2014.

Other airlines already offering Wi-Fi and mobile services on international flights include: Oman Air, Cathay Pacific, Royal Jordanian, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Egyptair, Libyan Airlines, AirAsia, TAM, Aeroflot, and TAP Portugal.

 

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