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Delta Flies High With Wi-Fi Deal

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Delta Air Lines plans to begin rolling out its in-flight Wi-Fi service next week.
Atlanta-based Delta plans to launch the service on six planes next week, and gradually add service to more aircraft. The first flights to have the Wi-Fi service will be Delta flights on MD-88 and Boeing 757 aircraft flying out of New York. The service will be on flights out of Atlanta by early 2009.
The Wi-Fi will cost $9.95 for flights three hours or shorter and $12.95 for flights over three hours.
The broadband Wi-Fi service, called Gogo and provided by Itasca, Ill.-based Aircell, will allow passengers with Wi-Fi-enabled laptops and other devices to access the Internet and send and receive e-mail, texts and instant messages.
“The last few years we’ve really focused on a differentiated product on board,” said Chris Babb, Delta’s product manager for in-flight entertainment and media.
Delta has been testing the service and operated a flight Thursday to officially accept the Aircell system and test it on a flight from Atlanta to Buffalo, N.Y. About 10 planes are expected to be outfitted with the service by the end of the year.
Babb said perhaps half of Delta’s passengers have a Wi-Fi enabled device.
Delta isn’t the first airline to offer in-flight Wi-Fi. American Airlines and Virgin America also have limited roll-outs of Aircell’s service. John Happ, executive vice president for airlines at Aircell, said Aircell has been “very pleased” with the rates of passengers buying the service so far. JetBlue launched a test of in-flight connectivity with e-mail and instant messaging using a different system.
Delta’s launch of Wi-Fi has taken longer than it expected.
The airline had originally hoped to launch service in the fall and had earlier expected to get the system installed in 75 planes by the end of this year and the entire domestic fleet by next summer.
Delta still plans to put the service on its domestic fleet of more than 330 aircraft, including Boeing 737, 757 and 767-300 planes, by sometime next year. It also plans to test the service next year on merger partner Northwest Airlines’ planes. The service will not be available on Delta Connection flights and will be limited to North America because Aircell relies on ground towers.

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