JetBlue To Roll Out (Possibly) Free In-Flight WiFi In 2013

With most airlines going the nickel-and-dime route for amenities that had long been included in the price of a ticket, it’s nice to hear about a carrier offering something new for free… even if it may only be free in the very beginning.

Yesterday, the tech types at The Verge posted an internal e-mail from JetBlue that outlines some of the basics of the plan.

“Currently, Wi-Fi on board is a competitive advantage,” reads the letter. “Customers, especially those traveling for business, with everything else being equal, will choose the airline that offers connectivity, even if the service is spotty or expensive….

“The challenge for us was building a Wi-Fi product that broke this slow, frustrating and ultimately unsatisfactory mold. We wanted to find a way to deliver faster and less expensive service that would result in greater satisfaction. With LiveTV partnering with ViaSat, I think we found the sweet spot.”

The letter speaks lovingly of ViaSat’s download speeds, claiming that one test downloaded 10 web pages in an average of 78 seconds. JetBlue says the second-fastest service took as long as 8 minutes, 42 seconds.

The letter also states that connecting to the WiFi will be free — with the huge caveat “at least until the first 30 aircraft are equipped with our service.”

That accounts for less than 1/10 of the approximately 350 jets that will receive the WiFi upgrade by the end of 2015.

The folks at ViaSat have confirmed this news in a statement to Consumerist.

“Compared to air-to-ground and traditional satellite in-flight networks, the improved capacity and economics of our Ka-band system enable airlines to finally bring a high-speed home or office Internet experience to passengers,” said Mark Dankberg, ViaSat CEO and chairman.