Internet Access at 35,000 feet – GoGo is Just So So
I’ve been on a flight or maybe two that offered internet access this year but they were short flights – under 3 hours so it did not seem necessary. This past week I flew from the East Coast to the West Coast on Virgin America and although the gogo (www.goginflight.com) service was not offered on the flight west we were offered internet access on the trip from LAX to JFK. It seemed like a good way for me to keep up with the email onslaught so I slid my credit card in the slot and pretty easily went through the procedure. I was a bit surprised the find out that the cost was $ 12.95 for the entire flight. In checking the prices after the fact it seems they are somewhat inconsistent in that some airlines are as much as $ 15 and others just under $ 10.
In looking around I appeared to be the only one who was availing himself of the service. Once I logged on I found that gogo offers spotty service – sometimes the speed was reminiscent of dial-up modem service. Without a doubt it was never as fast as cable or DSL service but there’s no mention of that on the sign-up page. Despite the sometimes glacial pace of the service, gogo in flight internet was useful as I was able to get a good amount of work accomplished in what normally would have been time spent reading (I did a lot of that as well given this was a 5 hour flight) or watching in flight television. Given that I spent about 2 hours working $ 6.50/hour seemed more than a little steep to me.
On the gogo site I now come to find out that I could have pre-bought (what is it about airlines with the paying before thing?) the flight for $ 11.00. Of course that was not offered to me during sign-up ON the flight itself. I can also buy a gogo 30 day pass for $ 29.95. I would have been extremely agitated had I chosen that option only to find out that the service is not offered on all Virgin America flights. I now also know that I can buy a gogo 6 pack for $ 49.95 which is better deal but this is a limited time offer. Why I have no idea. Gogo also offers flights up to 1.5 hours for $ 4.95. Given that it takes about 20 minutes before you can turn your laptop on after takeoff and you have to turn off electronics 10 minutes before the plane lands that leaves about an hour for $ 4.95. A deal for 1.5-3 hours for $ 9.95 is hardly a much better deal.
Anytime a new technology emerges there are bugs that need to be worked out and early adopters often get treated the worst (I can speak from experience with my original Kindle and Blackberry Storm). I will use the service again on a future flight and hope to find improvements in the gogo service (or whatever service is offered). Having internet access on flights is a great thing overall although I did not try (but thought about it) Skype to see if I could make a call while flying at 35,000 feet.
How about you – would you use in flight internet service? Or is the air your respite from constant communication?