Virgin America announces in-flight, air-to-ground broadband

Virgin virgin flight

Virgin America shared more details today on its partnership with in-flight wireless broadband provider AirCell -- air-to-ground wireless internet will be available on all VA flights "sometime in 2008," and will be offered two ways: BYOD (bring your own device, laptops or pdas or whatever), and also through the inflight entertainment system called Red.

AirCell also has a deal in the works with American Airlines for air-to-ground wireless, but from what I can suss out in the press release, two things make the VA deal different.

First, every single VA plane will have the connectivity, not just a chosen few. AA may be planning the same, eventually, but VA's committing to it from the start.

But even more interesting -- through "Red," VA will also be offering what amounts to a fleet-wide, airborne social network. Guests on one plane will be able to interact with other guests on that plane -- and with flyers on other planes within the VA fleet -- using Red. As I understand it, they've got some pretty ambitious plans in the works for in-flight interactivity. This could get really interesting.

Snip from joint press release issued just now by AirCell and VA:

Customized for Virgin America, the system is anticipated to allow guests to connect to the internet with the AirCell Broadband Service, using either their Red™ seatback video screens or their own wifi enabled portable gaming devices, laptops, PDAs or Smartphones. As such, in addition to the many entertainment choices currently offered by Red™ guests will be able to check and send web-email from their seatbacks through Red™’s TALK -- the airline’s onboard chat system -- using popular instant messaging services such as MSN®, Google® talk, Yahoo! ® Skype, and AIM®.

“We believe that broadband connectivity on our planes will help enhance the inflight experience for our guests,” said Charles Ogilvie, Virgin America’s Director of Inflight Entertainment & Partnerships. “Whether it’s IMing with your friends, updating your blog, getting a stock quote, sending photos from your trip to friends, watching a movie or sending a work email, we plan to make it all available on a Virgin America plane.”

Link to press release.

Previously on Boing Boing:

  • Getting high with Richard Branson: Virgin America's virgin flight

    Update: Dan Gillmor rightfully scolds us for adopting a popular marketing term in this post. He says:

    You're not a guest if you're paying... This drives me nuts. First the hotels pretend we're "guests" and now Virgin
    America is trying to pull the same thing. Please don't buy this language switcheroo.

  • Published by Xeni Jardin

    Boing Boing editor/partner and tech culture journalist Xeni Jardin hosts and produces Boing Boing's in-flight TV channel on Virgin America airlines (#10 on the dial), and writes about living with breast cancer. Diagnosed in 2011. @xeni on Twitter. email:

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    1. The American Airlines deal is to equip all of a specific class of plane for a trial — their intra-US long-haul craft. AirCell has said a few times that their installation costs about $100K, and can be installed in a routine maintenance cycle. So with hundreds of planes, American would probably take 1 1/2 years to get fully equipped once they decide to pull the trigger.

      So Virgin is in a better position to make this a fleet-wide brand promise because they simply have very few initial planes, and all of them will travel long distances.

      I suspect Virgin’s integration of the service across many initial applications will make it very valuable in increasing passenger happiness and return flying.

      Pure Internet access would be useful to many flyers, but I think to get maximum usage, you have to have fun and absorbing stuff to do.

    2. …thus pushing a Virgin Atlantic ticket price even further out of reach of the average passenger.

      Hopefully it will eventually trickle down to the airlines that are selling tickets to the rest of us.

    3. It is not clear in the post: if you bring a laptop and connect to their wireless, is it free or do you have to pay for access?

    4. @Jeffrey, that’s a legitimate point! I goofed, that was sloppy of me. I’ve edited the title.

      @GorillaSushi, that doesn’t seem like a reasonable criticism at all. Have you checked their fares lately? They’re very competitive, and I don’t see any indication that the added service here will cause them to raise rates. I mean, they may indeed raise fares after the initial launch period has passed, but if they do, I wouldn’t guess that’s all about the broadband.

      At any rate, fares on VA are really nice right now. I’ve been flying them on SF/LA and LA/NY routes, and enjoying it, and no they haven’t paid me to say that — they’re not a Boing Boing sponsor.

    5. Oh great,now I’am going to be subjected to some moron talking about his/her sex life,how drunk they got the night before,or “can you hear me ?”

    6. @Anonymous 4, I am presuming that this will be free, but I might be wrong. VA didn’t specify one way or the other in the press release, and the service launch is not planned ’til ’08.

    7. How clever to have plane-to-plane comms as well! (Betcha it won’t be long before the fear-mongerin’ FOX types are saying that it’s dangerous though… More free easy communication bad! More fear and seclusion good!)


    8. In Australia, Virgin Blue have $5 cable TV for 1 hour domestic flights – as a pricing indication, I’d suggest that VA would make it a no brainer price if not free.

    9. Dont trust any arousing ad about Virgin America and don’t trust their new tech f eatures! Most new tech features are not functional on flights.

      We supposed to leave at 9:25pm from SFO to IAD on Oct. 28, 2007 but the Virgin America flight delayed over 2 hours. Even Virgin America staff members were chatting and walking around despite of lateness. They did not move forward and operate quickly. They were chatting and rumoring about their passengers. They performed too slowly and boarding was too slow. Boarding took longer than one hour.

      Even, another flight from SFO to LAX delayed longer than 3 hours!!!

      Virgin America staff members are long tongue chatters than Southwest flight crew and staff members. I feel that my trip time is abused by Virgin America chronic lateness and sloppy service. We were expected to arrive at 5:30am next morning in IAD because we supposed to open a business meeting at 8am in DC area but the flight delayed and we arrived at 8am!!! The flight captain promised us to arrive late not longer than 6:30AM next day.

      Many passengers are angry and mad. The flight crew was rude and with their negative attitude. I am a business traveller and have experienced with many red eye flights. Most airlines turn off lights during night time in order to allow passengers to sleep and rest well but airlines usually do turn on only a few of lights in cabin. Virgin America refused to turn off lights during night(bed time) and lights were on all night and morning. Honestly, we were surprised about that. Their flight crew was rude. I asked a flight attendant to turn off some lights for our bed time but he refused and told us to close eyes and shut up our mouths.

      Results after Virgin America flight:

      We missed the business meeting and lost our potential clients! We lost revenue and profits; Our feelings are not good after the flight; Enormous disappointment;
      More expenses on parking after the lateness of the flight;
      Bad traffic in IAD area.

      The Virgin America is not reliable and not punctual with schedule and departure/arrival time. The Virgin America is NOT for business people and full-time employers or es! It might be good for senior citizen who usually do not hurry somewhere. The Virgin America guest care does not respond and never follow up with complaints!!!


    10. Over weight lugage in San Francisco (SFO)< \bold>
      IAN (I think employee# 135101) from first class was checking us in San Francisco (SFO).

      There was two of us with ONE 75 pound lugage.
      So, I stepped aside to re-packed it, then weighed 68 pounds. Only to be hassle again and then asked to weigh my carry on.

      The carry-on weighed 35 pound for two of us.

      The pushy IAN forced us to check our carry-on in because that too was overwieght. Split between two people would have been 17.5 pounds easily.

      Question is did IAN have a bad day with his boy friend or girl friend?

      Doing a job you don’t like is worse than losing your job.

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