Inflight Internet Goes Transatlantic

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A big move in the world of inflight communication: Lufthansa plans to turn its international planes into Wi-Fi hotspots by the end of next year, beginning with its transatlantic aircraft. Passengers will be able to log-on even over water.

And the FlyNet service, currently available on 11 planes, will be offered for free through Jan. 31, when about 20 aircraft will be equipped.

After that, it will cost about $15.50 for one hour or about $26.50 for 24 hours. Lufthansa's Miles & More members can pay with miles (3,500/7,000).

Christian Korfgen, Lufthansa's vice president of Product Management & Innovation, says adding Wi-Fi is not expected to be a moneymaker but rather a service enhancement for customers.

Lufthansa was the first carrier to launch overwater inflight internet access back in 2004 with Connexion by Boeing, but Boeing discontinued the service in 2006 after many carriers dropped out of the program after 9/11.

Inflight internet service offered by carriers in the U.S. is provided by cellular technology, which does not work over water.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., Delta completed the installation of Wi-Fi on its large aircraft last month and will begin installation on 223 regional jets operated by Delta Connection carriers in January. The Gogo Inflight Internet service will be available on all two-class regional aircraft by the end of next year.

Southwest plans to have Wi-Fi installed on 60 aircraft by the end of this month. Unlike most domestic airlines, whose prices for the service vary according to length of flight or type of device used to connect, Southwest is offering Wi-Fi at a flat rate of $5.

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