Faster ViaSat Wi-Fi Coming to AA’s New Boeing 737 MAX Aircraft

Jun 3, 2016

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Earlier this year, American Airlines and Gogo showed signs of tension in their relationship as AA attempted to replace the Wi-Fi company with its direct competitor, ViaSat. American filed a lawsuit against Gogo claiming that it had found a Wi-Fi service that was faster, but they later dropped the lawsuit. And as many AA flyers know, Gogo is still equipped on AA’s aircraft.

That’s soon to change, though, as American has just selected ViaSat over Gogo for service on its new Boeing 737 MAX fleet. ViaSat’s Ka-band satellite Wi-Fi service is known for providing travelers with at-home Wi-Fi speed that allows them to stream movies, videos, TV and music, as well as the basic functions like scanning social media and checking email. For regular AA flyers who are used to Gogo, this will be a noticeable and welcome change in Wi-Fi speed.

How satellite Wi-Fi systems work. Image courtesy of OnAir.
How satellite Wi-Fi systems work. Image courtesy of OnAir.

ViaSat’s Ka-band satellite Wi-Fi is currently installed on United, JetBlue and Virgin America aircraft. JetBlue offers its Fly-Fi service free of charge, whereas Virgin America announced earlier this year that it would begin charging for its service, and United’s charges for Wi-Fi vary. There’s no indication of the cost for the service with American. The Ka-band Wi-Fi uses satellite technology, which has antennas on the top of the aircraft that face up at the sky. This differs from the air-to-ground (ATG) Gogo counterpart, which uses transmitters on the belly of the aircraft that pick up signals from land-based cell towers.

While this is welcome news for AA flyers, it looks like travelers might not be able to take advantage of the improved Wi-Fi speeds for a while, as the first 737 MAX with this new addition isn’t scheduled to go into service until September 2017. However, it’s a definite improvement to look forward to. In the meantime, if you’re planning on flying AA between now and then with Gogo’s Wi-Fi, don’t forget there are cards that offer the service for free, such as the Platinum Card® from American Express, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express.

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