In-Flight Internet Takes Off

Aircell installed cell sites all over the country that will beam broadband Internet up to where passing airplanes can receive the signals. Passengers will then be able to access the Internet through their own Wi-Fi-equipped laptops.

American Airlines and Virgin America are the first two airlines to sign up for service that will allow passengers to access the Internet while in the air. Now there's no excuse for not answering email while on your way to that medical conference.

Some passengers can't wait for it, others loathe its arrival. Whichever emotion in-flight access to the Internet stirs in you, be prepared to face it if you're traveling via American Airlines or Virgin America. The two air carriers have partnered with a company called Aircell and are set to begin offering passengers access to the Internet through a service called Gogo.

Aircell has completed work on a fully operational wireless network designed specifically to provide mobile broadband services to commercial and business airline passengers while flying over the U.S. - coast-to-coast, border-to-border. In order to make it all work, Aircell installed cell sites all over the country that will beam broadband Internet up to where passing airplanes can receive the signals. Passengers will then be able to access the Internet through their own Wi-Fi-equipped laptops, PDAs, smartphones and other devices. The company's wireless network enables full corporate and personal email, VPN access, and web surfing.

American Airlines said it will offer Gogo on its Boeing 767 planes with routes originating from New York and traveling to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Miami. Virgin America said that it will provide Gogo on its entire fleet of planes (which is limited to a handful), with Gogo service available between San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas, and Dulles.

As for cost, better break out your wallet. American Airlines will charge $12.95 for access on flights over 3 hours in length, and $9.95 for those under 3 hours. Aircell itself is working out pricing models on daily, weekly, and monthly passes. Virgin has not yet settled on pricing.