Wireless in-flight Internet has been available on a handful of international carriers ever since 2004. But several companies are planning to expand service dramatically over the next two years on international and even domestic flights.
Boeing's Connexion service, which is already on 100 planesincluding those flown by Lufthansa, SAS, Japan Airlines, and Singapore Airlineswill be installed on at least 100 more by the end of 2006. OnAir, a joint venture between Airbus and the telecommunications firm SITA, currently provides only in-seat text-messaging and Web-based e-mail from mobile devices; however, the company plans to add high-speed Wi-Fi access by 2007. KLM, Iberia, Northwest, Virgin Atlantic, and Qantas are among the 11 airlines who already contract with OnAir. Verizon Airfone is said to be working on wireless Internet, too; however, its service would be limited to domestic flights.
But the spread of in-flight Internet may not please all passengers. Savvy business travelers are already using Connexion to place unlimited international calls from 30,000 feet with free Internet phone services such as Google Talk (www.google.com/talk) and Skype (www.skype.com). All you need is a laptop and a computer headset. So much for getting a little peace and quiet on that red-eye.