British Airways has begin tests of inflight Internet, with a single Boeing 747 kitted out for some sky-high surfing courtesy of a satellite Internet service.
BA says the trial will run "over the course of 2014", with the jumbo serving on a number of routes "to test how the system performs and identify usage levels to and from a range of destinations."
(For those who are curious, the registration number of this well-connected Boeing 747 is G-CIVG).
Initial costing is set at £10 (A$18) for a single session lasting up to one hour or £17.50 (A$32) to remain connected for up to 24 hours.
However, BA is believed to be considering a range of pricepoints during the trial to find the sweet spot for both popularity and profitability.
Passengers connect to the plane's 'BAWIFI' hotspot on their smartphone, tablet or laptop and log onto the 'High Life Connect' home page, which serves up a range of free 'offline' content along with last-minute bookings such as arranging a car to pick you up form the airport.
BA is also streaming the live TV channels including BBC World News, EuroNews, CNN and Sports 24 directly to passengers' devices, along with a selection of movies and TV shows.
SMS yes, voice calls no
The test aircraft is also fitted with a 'picocell' for mobile phone use, although voice calls are blocked – you can only send and receive text messages, which are charged at international roaming rates.
Skype is reportedly also blocked over Internet connections.
British Airways is the latest airline to get switched on to inflight Internet, with Thai Airways earlier this month launching its Sky Connect satellite Internet service on Thai's six Airbus A380 superjumbos and seven of its A330-300 jets.
Qantas trialled inflight Internet on selected Airbus A380 routes for nine months in 2012 but decided against introducing the satellite-based service, citing a lacklustre response from travellers.
"Whilst customers who used the Wi-Fi service told us that they valued the option to connect in flight, overall the trial has demonstrated a lower than expected take-up of the service, particularly on overnight flights where sleep was their priority" a Qantas spokeswoman told Australian Business Traveller at the time, with average take-up during the trial sitting at "less than 5 per cent."
"Naturally, the costs associated with offering a reliable internet connection in-flight are significantly higher than on the ground, particularly when you are flying over vast expanses of ocean and can’t connect to ground towers."
AusBT reader Andrew Hazelton, who tested the Qantas inflight Internet service from Sydney to Los Angeles, reported it was "fine for Facebook chat and allowed reasonable downloads for emails on the iPhone and laptop."
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