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Although JetBlue remains a flyer favorite thanks to large, comfortable coach seats and innovations like introducing an affordable new business class on transcontinental routes starting this June, one area that the airline has lagged far behind in has been the availability of in-flight WiFi. That all changes today thanks to the launch of JetBlue’s new Fly-Fi service.
The airline has partnered with LiveTV and Via Sat to launch high-speed broadband via satellite connectivity. For now, the service is available on three A320’s with plans to expand to the rest of the Airbus fleet throughout 2014 and then the E190’s. You can find out which flights will operate with WiFi on the BlueTales Blog here, but to give you an idea, here are the flights operating with it today:
So though the service is still rather limited, while it is in the beta period, the Simply Surf basic web browsing plan will be free on flights through June 2014 with a high-bandwidth plan – more for streaming or video – available for purchase for $9 per hour. JetBlue also hopes to follow Southwest’s lead by offering WiFi access gate-to-gate as early as January, and there are even rumblings that basic WiFi access might remain free even past June 2014.
Though it’s taken the airline years longer to get on the WiFi bandwagon than many of its competitors, the airline positions its decision as a way of leap-frogging other in-flight WiFi offerings with the latest technology, more bandwidth and speed, and just a better all-round latest-generation experience. Though satellite connectivity could theoretically provide much higher bandwidth, ViaSat is saying that the range on JetBlue flights will be around 12 mbps, even with 50-70 devices connected and browsing at once – though those speeds will likely not be maintained if everyone is streaming videos at the same time.
ViaSat only has coverage over the continental US, but that should expand when the company launches a second satellite sometime in 2016 when it should also cover Canada, the Caribbean and Mexico.
Though it’s taken far too long for JetBlue to offer WiFi on its flights, this is a great development that gives the airline another competitive edge thanks to innovative technology, and I hope that the roll out across its fleet goes quickly and smoothly so we can all stay productive the skies.
If you have a chance to use the new service, please comment below on your experience!