Speed now has more meaning. Getting people to destinations quickly is one thing — keeping them fast up in the air may be an important differentiation point for airline brands.
The Internet-in-the-skies battle (did you know there was one going on?) just got a tiny bit more interesting, with American Airlines filling a lawsuit in Texas, in an attempt to activate an escape clause with Gogo Inflight to jump to rival ViaSat. According to Tnooz, it’s unclear as to whether or not this is merely a negotiating tactic or a final decision.
At issue is the speed of the connection. Gogo has been the leader in in-flight Internet installations, but its original technology is sluggish (Note: yes, it is) compared to land-based alternatives. They are currently playing catch up. Last August they received approval for new antennas that promise to more than double its speeds (up to 70MB/s) and can be used flying over water.
ViaSat has a stout partner list including JetBlue and Virgin America. It appears to be on the precipice of another big deal with Australian carrier Qantas, with an announcement possibly coming as early as next week.
Further muddying the waters is the inclusion of Panasonic Avionics — who announced that they are floating up a new satellite that promises a 500% increase in bandwidth (up to 200MB/s) on many routes in North America and Europe. Travel Weekly noted that airlines that currently use Panasonic won’t have to install new equipment and the cost is half Panasonic’s current rates for providing internet via more traditional methods.
It will be interesting to see how this all works out with American and Gogo — especially since the latter counts Aeromexico, United, Delta and Virgin Atlantic as major partners.