American Airlines Promising Faster Wi-Fi, Courtesy of ViaSat (Not Gogo)
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The desire for faster in-flight Wi-Fi has long been a priority — and a bit of a headache — for American Airlines, which has had a rocky relationship with its longtime online partner, Gogo. In June, the airline announced its intention to work with Gogo’s biggest competitor, ViaSat, when equipping its new Boeing 737 MAX fleet with Ka-band satellite Wi-Fi service. Now, in yet another blow, American is choosing ViaSat over Gogo as it upgrades 500 aircraft already in its domestic fleet.
While travelers are celebrating the announcement — ViaSat, which is the preferred internet provider for JetBlue and Virgin America, is powerful enough to allow for inflight streaming of sites like YouTube and Netflix – Gogo isn’t surprised. Company spokesman Steve Nolan told Bloomberg that the ViaSat deal is “really old news and confirms what we said in our June 3 public statement.” (In June, the company told its investors that American’s 550 Gogo-ready aircraft were “subject to deinstallation at any time at American’s option.”)
This latest announcement is far from a permanent break-up. “Gogo will still be outfitting other aircraft in our domestic fleet with its 2ku satellite Wi-Fi,” American Airlines spokeswoman Martha Thomas told Bloomberg, calling the company “a valued partner.”
But don’t expect to be binge-watching Breaking Bad on your flight home this holiday season. It will be June before the ViaSat upgrades begin, and will take an estimated two years to complete the process.