Will the Option for In-flight Wi-Fi Influence Your Next Ticket Purchase?

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This is a guest post from Richard Hay who is the owner and webmaster of WindowsObserver.com as well as a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional.

If you had the choice between a more expensive flight that included internet access for the duration of the flight (including overseas flights) and a flight without internet access, which would you choose?

It seems that this will be one of the factors to consider when purchasing tickets in the near future. In a recent press event, JetBlue announced a partnership with ViaSat to begin piloting (no pun intended) a program to provide internet access to passengers via satellite beginning in 2012. JetBlue’s aim is to install internet connectivity that meets tomorrow’s bandwidth needs which means that passengers may be able to stream YouTube videos, make video conference calls, and more. Row44, a ViaSat competitor has already reached agreements with SouthWest and Alaska Airlines to provide similar access to passengers.

The biggest hurdle faced by companies like ViaSat and Row44 is compliance with very strict FAA mandates that determine whether or not these services will ever make it into your next flight. A July 2010 story from PCMAG reported that nearly one-third of commercial aircraft have inflight Wi-Fi capabilities already.  That is 968 aircraft out of approximately 2,800.

I have used inflight Wi-Fi on several occasions and found it to be a pleasant experience as far as speed and access goes.  The limitation for existing services is the aircraft relies on communications towers on the ground that relay data to antenna on the aircraft. This of course presents problems for  flights whose trajectory takes them away from land.

Imagine the ability to be online while flying overseas, what was once a pipe dream might become true sooner than later although some would prefer the status quo and enjoy  the sense of freedom that comes from being unplugged. I for one, like the idea of having the option to connect when I choose regardless of my location.

Of course that adds an entire new requirement on aircraft – more power sources to power those devices. However, that can be the subject of another blog post.

So what do you think?  Are you ready for 24/7 access to the internet no matter where you are?

Photo via Xpontius and JetBlue Flickr