Posted January 24, 2008 3:03 pm by with 3 comments

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Southwest Airlines is the next airline to begin testing Internet access on flights, beginning this summer. The satellite service will be tested on four planes. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to request a flight that is performing the test. For now, you just have to get lucky enough to be on the right plane.

If Southwest decides to offer Internet in-flight on a regular basis, they will join other airlines who now offer the service. This includes: JetBlue, American Airlines, Virgin Airlines, and Alaska Airlines. All except Alaska Airlines and Southwest use an air-to-ground cellular network.

JetBlue started offering the service just last month. They do restrict the sites or programs people can access while in the air. Most concerns are about passengers using VoIP or passengers accessing porn sites. Perhaps some restrictions also have to do with limited bandwidth.

The longer the flight, the more willing people seem to be to pay for Internet access. A recent survey by Forrester Research found that 26 percent of leisure travelers would pay $10 for Internet access on a two-to-four-hour flight. The percentage jumps to 45 percent if the flight is longer than four hours. Initial reports I’ve seen cite slow or spotty connections rather than issues offending customers. What I wonder about is if people are packing extra batteries or how hard it is to plug in your laptop (which is my number one complaint at conferences, and in my car – not enough plugs).

A search of the Delta airline blog and other searches weren’t conclusive. I don’t think Delta offers in-flight Internet access. They do let you check-in with your mobile device and scan the “bar code” that you save to your PDA or Smart phone at the kiosk to get your boarding pass.

If you’ve used the Internet in the air recently, what has been your experience? Have you been annoyed, or offended by other passengers using the service? How much did you pay? Has the connection been good or patchy? What airline did you fly?