Aircell scores deal with Alaska Airlines

Inflight WiFi provider Aircell scored a coup with Alaska Airlines, which has dropped plans to deploy Row 44's satellite-based WiFi system in favor of Aircell's Gogo system for fleet-wide WiFi service.

Alaska Airlines had originally favored Row 44's satellite-based WiFi system because it could provide service over oceans and in Alaska, Hawaii and parts of Mexico. Its goal was to deploy the service by the end of 2009. While Aircell's Gogo service is terrestrial-based, the equipment was priced cheaper, according to an airline spokeswoman cited in InformationWeek. The airlines expects to roll out the service across its 115 aircraft by the end of 2010.

To accommodate the airlines in Alaska, Aircell said it plans to expand its network to provide Gogo service on flights to, from and between key destinations in Alaska.

Alaska Airlines' move makes sense given the fact that airlines are still determining what price passengers are willing to pay for Internet access. The airlines cannot afford to bypass inflight Internet access altogether given the fact that competitors such as Delta, American and United are all deploying the Gogo service.

"With more than 730 systems already flying, Aircell has a proven track record of deploying affordable in-flight WiFi services to airline customers," Steve Jarvis, Alaska Airline's VP of marketing, sales, and customer experience, said in a statement. "Their reliable, lower-cost equipment can be installed quickly."

The only contract Row 44 has with a U.S.-based airlines is Southwest Airlines, which plans to install the satellite service across its 540-aircraft fleet. Row 44 also has contracts with European-based airlines.

In an email, Row 44 CEO John Guidon told InformationWeek: "We are disappointed we could not work out a mutually agreeable business relationship (with Alaska Airlines). But based on information we learned during their successful passenger trial, we know passengers were extremely satisfied with our service, including coverage into Canada and the far reaches of the airline's namesake state."

For more:
- see this InformationWeek article

Related articles:
Row 44 wins FCC approval for inflight WiFi
Southwest: Inflight WiFi will come to entire fleet by 2012
Alaska Air commences trial of inflight WiFi