Flight liveblogging

8 November 2008

This wasn't how I anticipated trying out Internet access several miles up in the air.

When I got to the American Airlines gates at San Francisco airport, a couple of people in lime-green T-shirts were handing out leaflets on the in-flight WiFi that some of the planes now have. I was flying to Boston, so it looked as though that service didn't have the wireless routers onboard. The much more regular services to JFK were on the map on the back.

Then, about 40 minutes before the Boston plane was due to take off, we got the dreaded announcement that the aircraft had a mechanical and there were no spare planes to replace it. It was time to queue up for the full Planes, Trains and Automobiles experience, through a mixture of dialing the 1-800 number and getting to the desk.

In the end, so I wouldn't miss the whole first day of the iGEM competition at MIT, I went for the option of getting to JFK late at night and then get a short flight up to Boston early in the morning. And so, that is how I'm trying out the Gogoinlight system.

I was expecting it to be a lot more expensive than it currently is as you don't get to find out the price until you actually crack open the laptop and the Gogo people were handing out 25%-off coupons as you went through the gate. It turned out to be $12.95. Based on how airlines introduced things like infight calls, I expected the price to be closer to $50. It's more expensive than T-Mobile on the ground, especially when you consider that the maximum online time you can get is around five hours versus the theoretical 24 hours from a $6 T-Mobile day pass.

Speed is OK but I haven't tried any video services yet. However, the potential for even more useless tweets seems immense. "Here come the drinks", "Queueing for toilet", "Woah, bit of turbulence there" - it's all going to happen. Maybe Aircell, which does the anti-smut filter for the system, apparently, can work on that.


Two thoughts ...

1) $12.95 may seem expensive compared to terrestrial Wifi, but considering it's available on the plane, where there are no competitors, that's a bargain. I feel worse about paying $4 for a Coke at the movie theater.

2) Call me a ludite, but there is still something quite liberating in telling others, "sorry, I won't be available, I'll be on a plane the next few hours". It gives me the excuse not to return that email right away or call that person right back or tweet that the guy next to me is 400 lbs. I can just "check out" and read a book or watch the movie or talk to someone next to me without that 21st century pressure for constant online-ness.


1) Entirely agree - I had expected it to cost a lot more.

2) And here too. Then again, there are times when you need to work on that plane. I got a lot done on that flight.