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Now that in-flight Wi-Fi is finally approaching reasonable speeds, the race to offer the best suite of services is on.
Earlier this month, Alaska Airlines announced that it would start giving away free in-flight messaging through its Gogo service. Now, JetBlue is opening up all of its Fly-Fi Wi-Fi for free fleetwide.
JetBlue’s announcement comes on the heels of a series of industry-leading moves by the airline in the in-flight connectivity space. Last year, the carrier made headlines by getting Amazon to sponsor its in-flight Wi-Fi — a broad advertisement for both JetBlue’s connectivity package and Amazon Prime’s content.
With its announcement this month, JetBlue is continuing to offer free Wi-Fi onboard but it’s now offering the service across its entire fleet, which is about 225 aircraft.
In addition to the deployment announcement, JetBlue is also creating much ado about its gate-to-gate connectivity, which allows users to log into the Wi-Fi as soon as they sit down on the aircraft. In a typical air-to-ground network (operated by most Gogo-equipped aircraft on Delta and American), that connectivity is only available once the network is established above 10,000 feet.
JetBlue’s service, on the other hand, is provided through a satellite connection via ViaSat, which allows a signal to be projected at any altitude. Southwest Airlines offers similar gate-to-gate service through its satellite provider, Row 44.
Despite the marketing spin in last week’s announcement, JetBlue still seems to be leading the way in terms of providing the best intersection of Wi-Fi price and product. Virgin America offers Wi-Fi fleetwide but charges for access. Some international carriers like Emirates offer Wi-Fi for free, but the technology isn’t fully deployed at top speed across its fleet. And among legacy U.S. carriers, which offer neither free Wi-Fi nor unilateral deployment, JetBlue is now an order of magnitude ahead of the competition.