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23/072009 – US Airways Introduces In-Flight WiFi After It Removes In-Seat Power : What Now?
There are some decisions airlines make on a whim that drastically impact the viability of their long-term plans. One of these decisions came last year when the cost of jet-fuel was at its peak. During this time US Airways chose to remove in-seat power outlets from its Airbus A321 fleet, as well as its “US East” fleet of A319 & A320 aircraft, in an effort to reduce the overall weight of its aircraft.
A significant draw to US Airways on certain routes by many business travelers was the ability to plug in their laptops and work on flights. US Airways offered in-seat power throughout its east coast based Airbus fleet, making up a large portion of its fleet well ahead of its primary trans-continental competitors
So now that in-seat power has been stripped from nearly the entire A320, rather than added to its west-coast fleet, US Airways has announced that it has signed a contract with GoGo for in-flight wifi internet connectivity. As a frequent passenger on US Airways’ transcontinental routes I applaud the airline for its plans to introduce in-flight wifi. Being able to work in the air is beneficial to maximizing downtime normally lost to staring at the back of the seat in front of you.
So now that US Airways plans to launch in-flight wifi on select A321 routes starting in 2010 they’ll need to also reinstall in-seat power throughout the fleet. US Airways’ short term gain last year of saving weight by removing in-seat power and in-flight entertainment will now cost them more in order to make the use of in-flight wifi viable. The average battery life of a laptop is between 1.5hrs and 2hrs, with many laptops getting far less than 1.5hrs of usable battery life with wifi enabled and the screen at maximum brightness (most users do not dim their screens). With flights between Philadelphia and San Francisco (SFO), Los Angeles (LAX), Seattle (SEA) and San Diego (SAN) blocked around 6-hours the lack of in-seat power will become quite obvious very quickly.
Those using EeePC 1000 HE Netbook with an advertised 9 hours of battery life (approximately 7hrs under normal operating conditions) should however have no problem kicking back and enjoying the in-flight wifi seamlessly between PHL and the West Coast.