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.

  • About 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: xeni@boingboing.net.
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