PrintEarlier this week, I got to try out a new feature being rolled out by many airlines- onboard wi-fi. I was waiting in the gate area for my Airtran flight from Atlanta to Orlando when a GogoInflight rep came walking through. She was handing out cards that had a code on it that would let people use the onboard wi-fi for free for the flight. Of course, I took one.

Once I got on the plane but before electronic devices had to be shut off, I tried to get online. I was picking up a signal, but all I could pull up was a webpage saying the service was unavailable (as I found out later, this is normal. The service doesn’t activate until the plane is above 10,000 ft. to comply with FAA regulations). After takeoff, I was able to get in, register for the service and start surfing in less then two minutes. The connection speed was quite good- it was similar to the speed that I get at home on my broadband connection. Having the wi-fi connection was quite entertaining. I got caught up on my e-mails, checked various social networking sites and even tracked my flight through Flightaware during the trip. Since Airtran doesn’t have much in the way of inflight entertainment besides XM radio, having the wi-fi connection made the time fly by.

Having internet access on the flight made the trip home much more pleasent for me and it’s something that I would consider paying for in the future. Gogo offers several different rate plans depending on the length of the flight and the device used. For a short one-hour hop that I was on, I wouldn’t pay for the service. But if I was on a long transcon flight, paying about $8 to have internet access on my iPod Touch would be well worth it.

Airtran has definitely taken the lead in getting wi-fi installed. They are the only US airline that has it on all of their planes. Airtran even has some funny videos showing what proper “Internetiquette” is and how to use the service. Gogo Inflight can also be found on some American, Delta, United and Virgin America flights. The service is also expected to appear on Air Canada and US Airways flights in the future. Southwest has been testing out wi-fi service with Row 44, but unlike the competition, they aren’t charging for it for now. Alaska Airlines is also testing with Row 44, but is charging for the service.

Overall, the addition of wi-fi is a great move in an age where having services taken away is much more common.