American Airlines has signed a memorandum of intent with AirCell to be the first U.S. airline to test the capability of providing passengers with AirCell’s high-speed broadband connectivity. The test will be conducted in 2008 on American’s Boeing 767-200 aircraft that primarily fly transcontinental routes.
“We understand that broadband connectivity is important to our business customers and others who want to use their PDAs and laptops for real-time, inflight broadband communications,” said Dan Garton, American’s Executive Vice President - Marketing. “This is part of our continuing effort to enhance the travel experience for our customers and meet their evolving needs.”
The solution will provide passengers with a high-speed Internet connection, VPN access and e-mail capabilities through Wi-Fi-enabled laptops and PDA devices. The system has the ability to adapt as technology evolves. The technology will be available in all classes of the B767-200 aircraft for a fee. If the connectivity solution is successful, it could be extended to the rest of American’s domestic fleet.
“We are excited to provide solutions that will give American Airlines passengers the opportunity to make high-speed Internet connections from unprecedented heights,” Garton said. “We consider it a 30,000-foot answer to many of our business travelers’ needs.”
The technology from AirCell is subject to strict requirements set forth by the Federal Aviation Administration through an exclusive license from the Federal Communications Commission. Both agencies oversee the use of broadband and wireless signals by aircraft flying over the continental United States.
The technology will use three antennas installed on the outside of the aircraft (two on the bottom of the aircraft and one on top.) AirCell will provide cellular towers throughout the continental United States to transmit the signal. The signals received inside the cabin will be 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi signals.
This is the latest in a series of moves by American in the past two years to enhance the customer experience by investing in its terminals, products, global route network, and services.
Always at the forefront of technology in the industry, American was the first airline to liberalize its cell-phone policy and among the first airlines to introduce global satellite phone service on international flights.