Gogo keeps fliers connected

 - October 27, 2010, 11:25 AM

To promote its airborne Internet access system, Aircell offered NBAA showgoers a free trial of the Gogo inflight Internet service to try on the way home. Available on many airlines, Gogo offers connection speeds of up to 3.1 Mbps, likely as fast as many DSL services for home use.

The service fee is $12.95 for a flight longer than three hours, $9.95 for 1.5 to three hours or $4.95 for up to 1.5 hours, which is reasonable and well worth it. Mobile device users pay $7.95 for flights of more than 1.5 hours or $4.95 for shorter flights. Aircell also offers a 24-hour pass for $12.95 for flights on a single airline and a $34.95 unlimited monthly pass for all Gogo-equipped flights.

During both in- and outbound legs from Los Angeles to Atlanta, I logged on to Gogo for about 2.5 hours. The connection remained solid the entire time and the speed was satisfyingly quick and seemed as fast as my home DSL line.

The beauty of having excellent Internet access during the flight is the ability to take care of so much business. The last few days before the NBAA show are a whirlwind of preparation and planning for AIN’s NBAA Convention News daily magazines, and normally the 10-hour (door-to-door) chunk of time needed to fly across the country is unavailable for communications, except for the last-minute-where-the-heck-are-the-electrical-outlets period at the airline gate (and speaking of which, Hartsfield International Airport’s lack of electrical outlets, at least in Terminal D, is shocking). Being able to receive late-breaking news from exhibitors and set in motion plans to cover that news was invaluable, and no one in AIN’s accounting department would have complained had I spent the $12.95 for Gogo.

The only drawback I found was the cumbersome process to sign up for Gogo service (yet another username and password to add to my long list). If you’re going to use Gogo on an airliner, I recommend signing up before you leave, then hooking up once airborne will be simpler. Using a secure password manager like Lastpass makes logging on to Gogo even smoother. Having an account before takeoff will also make signing up on a mobile device much simpler. Pecking out account sign-up details on a smartphone is not one of the most fun tasks in the world.

Gogo is now available on eight airlines (soon to be nine). Because Southwest Airlines is buying AirTran Airways, I can’t help wondering if Southwest will add Gogo to the entire fleet after the transaction is done. Of course, if your business jet is already Aircell-equipped, you already enjoy the benefits of airborne Internet, something that I expect will be standard on most modern airplanes. The only element missing from the AirTran service is electrical outlets at the seats, but as more passengers pay for airborne Internet access, airlines will probably add power outlets.