Delta Airlines says they'll put Internet access on every plane: Delta is the first major U.S. airline to take the full-on plunge into fleet in-flight broadband service. The company said that it will equip 330 planes by 2009, starting with 130 MD craft this year, with Aircell's service. The Gogo Internet offering costs $10 for flights up to 3 hours and $13 for longer flights.
Delta's competitors with broadband interest, like Alaska, Southwest, and American, each have a different plan of attack. Alaska will test service soon with Row 44, which uses Ku-band satellite access, albeit with higher speeds and far lower costs, the company says, than Boeing's doomed Connexion service. Row 44 touts their over-water ability, critical for Alaska, which flies plenty of routes to the great northern state and to Mexico. A test is what's scheduled; not deployment.
Southwest did some deal with Row 44, but nothing further has been forthcoming. Summer's almost over, and we haven't heard more about the "four aircraft" mentioned in the linked press release.
American has the most fully formed plan, but they, too, are testing Aircell's service, and will shortly launch service on 15 trans-continental 767-200s, flying largely routes among SFO, LAX, JFK, and Miami. The company said in the past that they would decide on fleet deployment after the pilot stage.
I shouldn't forget Virgin America, which planned Internet access as part of a set of already-deployed in-flight networked services, but they have under a couple dozen planes at the moment, so they're not a real competitor except on a few routes. Their launch date hasn't been set. Update: Stacey Higginbotham over at GigaOm got the detail from Virgin that Wi-Fi is in place for crew on a few planes now, and will be turned on for passengers by year's end. The full flight will be unwired by Mar. 2009, she writes.
Delta's announcement makes it clear that air-Fi is coming soon, and will likely change how business travelers plan trips. If you can get productive work done during a flight, that changes the financial equation of the trip's cost, and your time out of the office. Pair in-flight Wi-Fi with a cell data card, and you may curse the fact that you're always connected.