JetBlue To Provide Gate-To-Gate Wi-Fi Connection
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JetBlue fliers will soon be able to connect to the internet from the time they fasten their seat belts to the time they disembark from the plane. The low-cost carrier announced a plan for “gate-to-gate connectivity” when it rolled out its cabin redesign plans for the 130 Airbus A320s in its fleet on Monday.
The airline has already made plans to redesign its "All Core" A321s, but this is the first total makeover for the A320s since they were brought into service in 2000. The “restyling,” as JetBlue calls it, will start in 2017, and all 130 of the aircraft in its fleet will receive the upgrades by 2019. The remodels of the All Core A321s will be completed late this year.
Aside from the increased connectivity, the renovations will include new wider seats that offer more leg room, movable headrests and a new LED lighting scheme.
The internet is always on
The gate-to-gate connectivity will be the first thing that fliers will notice. Some sources are saying that the necessary software upgrades will be in place sometime during the second quarter of this year. However, JetBlue will not be the first airline to offer a gate-to-gate WiFi setup. Southwest currently has a connection that is “accessible for taxi, takeoff, and landing” as well as in the air.
A free-for-all competition
The competition for better in-flight Wi-Fi is a free-for-all. Some carriers are simply focused on providing any sort of wireless internet access, while others, like JetBlue and Southwest, are competing to offer the most cutting-edge connections.
Rapidly developing satellite internet technology and software has led the FAA to adjust its rules about in-flight WiFi connections. The air travel governing body decided that it was safe to do away with its well-known law that said that connections could only be established once an aircraft was above 10,000 feet. This rule has been in place since the first generation of iPods hit the market. Even after JetBlue launches its gate-to-gate setup, most passengers will probably still switch off their devices anyway because it has become such a habit to do so.
While Southwest can claim to be the first when it comes to allowing passengers to connect during takeoff and landing, JetBlue is taking the idea quite a bit further than its competitor. Its new 10-inch seat-back screens will be connected to the internet. This means that people won’t actually have to bring their own device (like they do on Southwest). The Android-powered IFE system will allow fliers to do more than simply watch the TV channels and movies that JetBlue offers; they will be able to use their seat-back screen to do other things online as well.
A game changer?
The internet service, dubbed Fly-Fi by the airline, claims to offer speeds of 12 to 20 Mbps for every device that is connected. That is fast enough to stream movies. The current Fly-Fi setup includes enhanced access to Amazon's streaming service via JetBlue's IFE platform, the Hub. So even though JetBlue wasn't first in the gate-to-gate race, it still is one of the leaders when it comes to in-flight internet access.
JetBlue’s A320s are due for a makeover. The new seats are lighting are welcome upgrades, but it is the new Wi-Fi and IFE upgrades that will cause others in the industry to sit up and take notice.
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