06
Dec
2010

The Association of Flight attendants has asked the federal government to ban inflight internet access. And it’s in the name of security. I give up.

British explosives consultant Roland Alford created a stir when he told New Scientist magazine that Wi-Fi is a “Pandora’s box” for terrorists and that giving passengers Internet access “gives a bomber lots of options for contacting a device on an aircraft.”

A number of airline workers, security professionals and technologists say they agree that Wi-Fi can create serious security risks. The Association of Flight Attendants, for example, has asked the government to ban Wi-Fi.

Wi-fi is a tool, and a medium of exchange. And like many tools, it can be used for good or evil. A knife can be used to cut your food, or stab someone in the eye. A bottle of wine can be broken over someone’s head and used as a weapon. So, should restaurants ban knives? Eliminate wine from their menus?

What is the alternative universe the Association of Flight Attendants wants to see? Passengers strapped into their seats, windowshades shut, hooded, gagged, and perhaps even sedated?

Personally, I’m thankful for every time there’s wi-fi in flight. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea to be connected, but for long flights, I consider it a godsend. And while the Association of Flight Attendants may disapprove, I salute the airlines that expand their internet offerings, such as Lufthansa’s most recent reintroduction of internet access over the North Atlantic.

Hat tip: I’m not sure how I missed this when it first came out, but thankfully Jared Blank caught it.

Categorized in: inflight internet
02
Dec
2010

lufthansa a330 Lufthansa revives inflight internet over the oceans
It’s baaaaaaack…

It’s been nearly four years since Boeing shut down its satellite-based Connexion inflight-internet service. Lufthansa was a major customer, back in the day. Now, they’ve revived it, in partnership with Panasonic, and are once again dubbing it “FlyNet.”

The service is being rolled out first on “selected North Atlantic routes” — Frankfurt to New York-JFK, Detroit, and Atlanta, for starters — and is intended to be available globally by the end of 2011.

From the press release:

After opening the browser, they can automatically access the exclusive, free Lufthansa FlyNet portal, where they will find constantly updated news about economics, politics, sports and entertainment. Via this portal they can access the Internet service provided by Deutsche Telekom, which is to be paid from February 2011 on. Service provider information detailing the various billing options is available on this portal as well, including payment via credit card, via integrated roaming partners or by redeeming Miles & More award miles. The price for one hour’s online access is 10.95 euros or 3,500 miles, while the 24-hour flat rate is 19.95 euros or 7,000 miles. Under the 24-hour flat rate agreement, passengers can access the Internet on all Lufthansa connecting flights equipped with a hotspot during the period of validity as well as after the flight in Lufthansa lounges. Thanks to the introductory FlyNet offer, inflight Internet access will be available for free on FlyNet-equipped aircraft until January 31, 2011.

As an aside on the pricing structure: 7000 miles for 24 hours of access is ludicrously expensive. 19.95 euros — or around $26.50 at today’s exchange rates — is better value.

Also, notably: “In spring 2011, inflight data communication should also be possible using the mobile phone standards GSM and GPRS.” Data, not voice.

As Air Transport World notes, Turkish Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, Dragonair and Gulf Air have similar plans to launch inflight internet on long-range flights.

Nice to see connectivity expanded on long flights. Now, let’s hear about in-seat power throughout the plane…

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30
Nov
2010

delta connection Upgraded: Delta brings inflight wi fi to regional jets
Good news for travelers on Delta’s larger regional jets: You’ll soon be able to surf the internet at 35,000 feet.

Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL) today announced it will add onboard Wi-Fi to 223 regional jet aircraft operated by Delta Connection carriers, expanding by 40 percent the number of Delta aircraft featuring Gogo Inflight Internet service. Delta will be the first domestic carrier to deploy Wi-Fi across its entire mainline and regional aircraft fleets with two classes of service.
[...]
Installations of Wi-Fi on Delta Connection jets will begin in January and will be complete by the end of 2011. Once complete, customers flying on all Delta domestic flights with a First Class cabin will enjoy Wi-Fi access, including service on every Delta Shuttle flight between New York-LaGuardia and Boston, Chicago-O’Hare and Washington, D.C.
[...]
Delta Connection aircraft featuring First Class cabins include Embraer 175, Bombardier CRJ700 and Bombardier CRJ900 models operated by Delta Connection. The aircraft feature between nine and 12 seats in First Class and between 56 and 64 seats in Economy.

This is an interesting move. First, it makes the regional jet experience a little more tolerable, by providing an option for inflight entertainment or productivity that wasn’t there before. With regional jets traveling on routes that have traditionally been handled by larger aircraft, it’s good to see Delta making the regional jets a little more “real.”

But perhaps more interestingly, the introduction of wi-fi actually brings a product typically only found on mainline jets to the subcontractors. These aren’t Delta’s planes. Sure, they fly with the Delta logo, but flights labeled “Delta Connection” are operated by a litany of regional airlines.

The only downside, for the time being, is the lack of wi-fi on the smaller jets. Sure, some of those 50-seat CRJ’s and ERJ-145s are just going to fly from Atlanta to Savannah, but some of those planes are for two-hour flights, regrettably. The people in the flying soda cans need distractions, too!

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luggage tag Upgrades and Downgrades: Baggage check in, cellphone room keys, defending AirTran, TSA Downgraded: Checking in your bags at US airports
You’ve mastered the self-service check-in. You’ve printed your own boarding passes. Now, get ready to tag your own checked bags: “American Airlines(AMR) and Air Canada say they’re in talks with the Transportation Security Administration for a trial program in Boston likely later this year to let travelers tag their own checked bags for the first time in the U.S. Delta Air Lines (DAL) says it’s in talks with TSA for a trial at another airport.” Not a huge deal, frankly, and 32 airlines worldwide have already been testing this for some time at airports around the world, but it’s new to the United States. It’s another transfer of responsibility from the airline to you. Don’t expect to receive any discounts, vouchers, or thank-yous for doing someone else’s job, either.

Upgraded: Inflight wi-fi on Southwest
Southwest is (finally) getting on the inflight wifi train (err, or plane…) and their price will be a relatively low $5 per connection, regardless of flight duration/distance or device used to connect.

Upgraded: Passion for AirTran’s first class seats
Fans of AirTran, which is being taken over by Southwest, have set up a website devoted to saving the first class seats that AirTran frequent fliers have grown accustomed to. Join the resistance at AirTranSOS.com.

Upgraded: Your cellphone as a key
The Clarion Hotel in Stockholm is the first hotel to install a cellphone-based room lock/key system. It’s a limited rollout, for starters. In theory, you’ll be able to check in by phone and walk straight to your room, bypassing the front desk, and avoiding the need for a room key. Neat, if it works.

Upgraded: Back-channel efforts to change our security theater
If existing efforts to change TSA policy have failed — and if the policy itself has continuously gotten worse for travelers — then perhaps a back-channel effort to effect change may be in order. Reader Ed sends in this open letter to the CEO of the Walt Disney Company. The letter-writer, Arthur Krolman, argues that Disney is tacitly endorsing TSA policy, and is thereby supporting the “nude photography or inspection of private parts” of children. Ouch. Will Disney take the bait ?…

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singapore a380 at altitude Singapore Airlines bringing back the inflight internet over the oceans
Back in 2006, you could connect to the internet via Boeing’s Connexion service, which was shut down on January 1, 2007. Then, last year, Lufthansa committed to relaunching global satellite-based inflight internet access. Now, Singapore Airlines rejoins the party:

OnAir said it has reached a “multi-million dollar” contract with Singapore Airlines to deploy onboard telephony and Internet features for the carrier’s A380s, A340-500s and 777-300ERs, enabling passengers to make and receive voice calls, send text messages and e-mail. The carrier said it will be the first major airline in Asia to launch a “full suite” of inflight connectivity services. The service will be introduced “progressively” beginning “as early” as the first half of 2011. SIA was a customer for the Connexion by Boeing broadband solution withdrawn by Boeing in 2006.

The service would provide phone service, too, but not necessarily voice calls:

The airline said the service would allow SMS text messages with GSM-compatible phones and e-mails through smart phones, even at 35,000 feet in the air.

I’m glad to see another airline add internet access, especially on such long flights. If there’s anywhere you can use the internet to pass the time, it’s over the Pacific.

Now, it comes down to the price…

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Upgraded: Inflight wifi subscriptions
Gogo Inflight (aka Aircell) is making its monthly subscriptions for inflight wifi applicable across airlines — Air Canada, AirTran, American, Delta, US Airways, and Virgin America, to name a few. They’re also introducing discounts: For $19.95 in the first month and $34.95 each month thereafter, it’s all-you-can-surf pricing. I like. I like a lot.

Upgraded: Pilots on the edge
Upgraded: Headline writing

Great headline for a post: “United Pilot Loses Cool, Pants.” Poorly-played, trouser-dropping United pilot. Well-played, BlackBook!

Upgraded: Smaller airports near large cities
Downgraded: Methodology

CheapFlights has released their list of the “cheapest airports” in America, and some smaller airports near(ish) larger cities are on the list. Burbank, Long Beach, Bellingham… no huge surprises. But these lists are perpetually flawed… who edited this thing? Chicago-Midway, Chicago-O’Hare, and Chicago-All Airports on the same list?! The “CHI” code doesn’t really count, guys…

Downgraded: Travel insurance in the UK
If you’re planning to buy travel insurance in the UK, prepare to pay an “ash tax.” Yes, a surcharge to cover prospective volcano ash delays and cancellations.

Upgraded: The ubiquity of opaque bookings
Expedia, which owns Hotwire, will be integrating Hotwire’s opaque (i.e., unnamed until purchase completed) hotel supply into the regular Expedia sales channel. Travelocity added “top secret hotels” back in March. I guess it’s Orbitz’ turn next?…

Upgraded: Yada, yada, yada
Remember the “YADA,” the roving check-in unit being tested by American Airlines last year? It’s coming to LAX.