Virgin America Aircell Gogo In-Flight WiFi


While I’m a little late to this particular mile high club, I finally experienced the joy of in-flight WiFi last Friday. Unlike Boeing’s now defunct Connexion satellite solution, it appears that most domestic airlines are utilizing Aircell’s Gogo service – essentially 3G EVDO connectivity in the sky. On my cross country Virgin America flight, the prices for Internet access were more than reasonable: $13 for a laptop or $8 for a handheld. Although, as we discovered, we didn’t need to pay for each device, periodically swapping the connection between Macbook, iPhone, and Blackberry.

Not only were Gogo’s download speeds (and latency) perfectly suitable for typical web browsing, I also had no probs with SD YouTube video (above). In fact, after seeing how quickly the buffer filled, I gave HD a shot. Giving it a minute to build a buffer worked out fine as well. (In fact, I’m more stoked than ever about Call of Duty, Modern Warfare 2. Come November 10th, you can safely expect a period of blog silence.)

Officially, in-flight VoIP is restricted. Which is probably a good thing given how loudly most folks talk into their cell phones. However, when Melissa connected her 8900 Curve to check for email, T-Mobile’s UMA service automatically kicked in. I wouldn’t say it was very usable, with frequent audio drop outs, but the fact that she could check voicemail from 36,000 feet was inspiring.

7 thoughts on “Virgin America Aircell Gogo In-Flight WiFi”

  1. Blake proved that could be done long ago in the Connexion days. And I don’t have any Slingboxes hooked up at the moment. Besides, with the latency something like YouTube that can build a buffer would look better. (Not to mention, I had maybe two dozen DISH stations in the seat-back TV.)

  2. I was able to test slingbox connection on a flight to atlanta on Delta. It played well for first five minutes but then starte losing connection frequently. Probably with some tweaking it could work well.

  3. isn’t it nice to have a UMA phone?

    my life will be complete when t-mo comes out with a uma android.

    right now i’m carrying 2 phones, a samsung katalyst and a google g-1.

    i can’t wait to put them both up on ebay and use the money to get a new UMA android.

  4. Once again, I must pipe up. I had folks talking all around me on my cross-continental flight last week (and expect more of the same when I return tomorrow). None were speaking any quieter than a typical cell phone call/VoIP call and nobody was suggesting they shouldn’t have a right to talk to their seat-mate.

    I still don’t see why people want cell-phones banned on flights. All that’s required is common decency. Cell phone calls by most normal people are no more annoying than a casual conversation.

    Wish I was flying Virgin American. But I gotta say I enjoyed the in-flight movie options on my Air Canada/UA flight. It’s the first time I could choose from movies, TV shows etc. at my leisure. Now that’s flying.


  5. As with the last time you and I debated this issue, I suggest you take a train with business travelers and college kids between DC, NYC, or Boston. If you still feel the same, then fine we have different thresholds. All I can say is the cell-free zone ‘quiet car’ Amtrak offers is designed specifically to overcome this issue and the sole reason I still ride them on occasion. Regarding flights, it doesn’t matter how I feel anyway – it’s up to the FCC and carriers. Not to mention, as a guy who spends dozens of nights a year on the road, I’m seasoned enough to always travel with ear plugs.

  6. Unlikely I’ll ever end up on the rails between DC and NYC, but I do use VIA Rail between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal and have no problems with the people talking on cell phones around me. Again, no more than people talking to people around them.

    We’ll have to agree to different thresholds here.

    I would agree with you in the case of red-eye flights. After midnight phones should be shut off. Again, common decency.


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