Aircell announced that its inflight Internet service is now operating on more than 600 commercial aircraft and served its one millionth customer in October. The company said its current rate of expansion with users is approaching 100,000 per week, with 2 million users expected in January.
Glenn Fleischman at Wi-Fi Net News quickly queried the company to discover that these numbers reflect sessions and not actual users. Aircell hasn't released the number of total unique users it has nor any revenues or other break-down information such as paid vs. free users. Some airlines, such as Virgin America, are offering the service for free during the holidays courtesy of Google, while on American and Delta, Aircell offers the first session of the Gogo service for free to first-time users.
An article that appeared earlier this month in Portfolio.com, said less than 10 percent of all people who take flights that offer WiFi service use it. The publication cited industry insiders since everyone is tight-lipped on the actual number of people using this. This past summer, Doug Murri, Southwest Airlines senior manager of technologies, proclaimed that passengers "want to be connected, [but] they want it to be free," according to the article.
For Alaska Airlines, which, like Southwest Airlines, is testing Row 44's satellite service, has reported that its passenger usage falls off dramatically when the airline charges a higher fee. Alaska Airlines executive Craig Chase recently told the Wall Street Journal that even charging $1 for service created a drop-off in people willing to pay for Internet access.
United Airlines goes with Aircell's Gogo inflight WiFi service
American Airlines taps Aircell for in-flight WiFi
Southwest Airlines to roll out inflight WiFi to entire fleet