United Airlines Launches Satellite Based Wi-Fi Service

I have been on a few very long flights over the years, and I always find myself with the same problem, what on earth am I going to do for eight hours in one seat?  The first couple of times was before iPods were invented and laptops were something that everyone had.  Once I was able to have those the flights were better, but there was still something missing: the internet.

Inflight Wi-Fi is becoming relatively commonplace these days using air-to-ground technology that provides varying levels of service.  Unfortunately, that technology is not really practical when it comes to flying over the oceans.  United Airlines has the answer to that problem by providing satellite-based Wi-Fi internet connectivity.  The full press release can be found below.

It will be interesting to see how successful this is, and how many other carriers follow suit in the never ending battle of “keeping up with the Jones’s” that is the airline industry.  United is certainly going all-in with this move as they plan to have the technology installed on 300 of their mainline aircraft by the end of the year.

I for one think this is great, and with a starting price of only $3.99 I think it will be wildly popular.  The price can go as high as $20 for long haul flights using their Accelerated speed option, but even that isn’t terrible for a long flight.

As much as I hate how you have to pay for everything on flights these days I really think this is quite reasonable.  The airline is having to invest quite substantially to make this happen, and is asking a very reasonable price for customers to use it.  This is also a new service, as opposed to all of the things that we were used to getting for free that we now have to pay for.

Press Release

CHICAGO, Jan. 15, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — United Airlines has introduced onboard satellite-based Wi-Fi internet connectivity on the first of its international widebody aircraft, becoming the first U.S.-based international carrier to offer customers the ability to stay connected while traveling on long-haul overseas routes.

The aircraft, a Boeing 747 outfitted with Panasonic Avionics Corporation’s Ku-band satellite technology, serves trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific routes.

Additionally, United has outfitted Ku-band satellite Wi-Fi on two Airbus 319 aircraft serving domestic routes, offering customers faster inflight Internet service than air-to-ground technology (ATG). The company expects to complete installation of satellite-based Wi-Fi on 300 mainline aircraft by the end of this year.

“Satellite-based Wi-Fi service enables us to better serve our customers and offer them more of what they want in a global airline,” said Jim Compton, vice chairman and chief revenue officer at United. “With this new service, we continue to build the airline that customers want to fly.”

Customers have the choice of two speeds: Standard, priced initially between $3.99 and $14.99 depending on the duration of flight, and Accelerated, priced initially between $5.99 and $19.99 and offering faster download speeds than Standard.

United will install satellite-based Wi-Fi on Airbus 319 and 320 aircraft, and on Boeing 737, 747, 757, 767, 777 and 787 aircraft. Customers will be able to use their wireless devices such as laptops, smart phones and tablets onboard those aircraft to connect with internet service using the in-flight hotspot.

United is upgrading its fleet with more than $550 million in additional onboard improvements, including:

  • Offering the world’s largest fleet of aircraft with flat-bed seats, with more than 175 aircraft with 180-degree flat beds in premium cabins once the airline completes the installation in the second quarter.
  • Expanding extra-legroom Economy Plus seating to provide the most such seating of any U.S. carrier.
  • Revamping the transcontinental “p.s.” fleet of airplanes that fly between New York Kennedy and Los Angeles and San Francisco, offering an improved premium cabin with fully flat beds, Wi-Fi Internet service, and personal on-demand entertainment at every seat.
  • Improving inflight entertainment options with streaming video content on the Boeing 747-400 fleet.
  • Retrofitting overhead bins on 152 Airbus aircraft, allowing for significantly greater storage of carry-on baggage.

About United

United Airlines and United Express operate an average of 5,557 flights a day to 378 airports on six continents from the airline’s hubs in Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Guam, Houston, Los Angeles, New York/Newark, San Francisco, Tokyo and Washington, D.C. United is upgrading its cabins with more flat-bed seats in first and business class and more extra-legroom economy-class seating than any other airline in North America. United now has 180 airplanes featuring DIRECTV®, offering customers more live television access than any other airline in the world. United operates nearly 700 mainline aircraft and has orders for more than 270 new aircraft deliveries through 2022. In 2012, United was the first North American airline to take delivery of new Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft. United was rated the world’s most admired airline on FORTUNE magazine’s 2012 airline-industry list of the World’s Most Admired Companies. Readers of Global Traveler magazine have voted United’s MileagePlus program the best frequent flyer program for nine consecutive years. United is a founding member of Star Alliance, which provides service to 193 countries via 27 member airlines. More than 85,000 United employees reside in every U.S. state and in countries around the world. For more information, visit united.com or follow United on Twitter and Facebook. The common stock of United’s parent, United Continental Holdings, Inc., is traded on the NYSE under the symbol UAL.