March 22nd, 2011
United Continental Holdings Announces In-Flight WiFi
The holding company for the merged Continental/United has announced a plan to install WiFi in 200 aircraft starting in 2012. The installation will take place on Boeing 737 and 757 aircraft outfitted with DirecTV. This implies that only the Continental aircraft will receive the upgrade since only their planes have DirecTV. Currently United’s p.s. flights between New York and Los Angeles and San Francisco have WiFi and it’s unclear if they will keep their GoGo internet service or move to the new Ka-Band service.
All of this is contingent on ViaSat’s ViaSat-1 satellite actually launching and being put into service in late 2011. We’ll patiently wait while not holding our breath. Don’t forget, when Continental announced their LiveTV installation there was mention of WiFi being included. Along the way, LiveTV announced that the WiFi project was dead and that in-flight internet would not be part of the installation. Let’s hope this time around is different. The fact that the satellite has not launched yet makes me weary to hope things will change. However, if the ViaSat-1 launches successfully then I think we have a very good chance of seeing YouTube videos on Continental planes.
While installation of WiFi is a distinguishing reason for someone to choose to fly Continental/United, a majority of travelers still choose their carrier based solely on price. The proof of this is the continual success of low-cost carriers such as JetBlue and Southwest (both of which offer in-flight WiFi). So, while having internet and DirecTV are nice, they are not huge factors in which airline people choose, instead, they are revenue generators and I’m sure that’s the driving reason Continental is making this announcement.