United Airlines debuts satellite Internet Wi-Fi services during flights

United Airlines recently became the first American international carrier to equip an international widebody aircraft with onboard satellite Wi-Fi Internet connectivity for passengers embarked on long-haul overseas routes.

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The airline has outfitted one of its Boeing 747 aircraft with Ku-band satellite technology developed by Panasonic Avionics Corporation. The 747 covers the trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific routes. A pair of United Airbus 319 aircraft assigned to domestic routes have also received similar capabilities.

United intends to outfit satellite-based Wi-Fi aboard various Airbus and Boeing aircraft in its fleet. The airline expects to have equipped 300 of its mainline aircraft by the end of 2013.

Passengers will be able to use their laptops, smart phones, tablets, and other wireless devices to tap the in-flight hotspot aboard the outfitted aircraft and access Internet from satellite connectivity. United offers Standard (initial price: $3.99 to $14.99) and the faster Accelerated ($5.99 to $19.99) services with the prices varying according to the duration of the flight.

The satellite Internet outfit is part of the fleet-wide improvements United Airlines is currently performing to the tune of more than $550 million. One of its projects is to refit the transcontinental “p.s.” fleet of aircraft serving the New York Kennedy-Los Angeles-San Francisco routes with an improved premium cabin boasting fully flat beds, Wi-Fi Internet service courtesy Ku-band satellite capacity, and seats equipped with personal on-demand entertainment.

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