JetBlue to offer on-board Wi-Fi on BetaBlue Aircraft

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JetBlue will introduce in early 2008 limited in-flight e-mail and Instant Messaging access, in partnership with Yahoo and RIM (the maker of BlackBerry phones). Passengers on JetBlue’s Wi-Fi equipped BetaBlue aircraft will be able to use their Wi-Fi-enabled laptops, smartphones, and BlackBerries to access customized version of Yahoo!® Mail and Yahoo!® Messenger named Yahoo! Mail in the Sky and Yahoo! Messenger in the Sky. BlackBerry users will also be able to check BlackBerry Email and BlackBerry® Messenger services. All this for Free (um..at no additional charge)! However, iPhones™ cannot be used on BetaBlue.

Yahoo!’s in-flight versions of Mail and Messenger are slightly different – they do not allow attachments to be opened via Yahoo! Mail in the Sky. Even Personal and corporate BlackBerry email on BetaBlue do not support attachments. So, if you are a laptop user, you cannot use your existing Yahoo! mail and Yahoo! messenger, but have to install the customized lightweight Yahoo! Mail in the Sky and Yahoo! Messenger in the Sky version. Those without a Yahoo! account can register for one on the fly (literally!).

JetBlue’s BetaBlue aircraft is an Airbus A320 equipped for email and Instant Messaging services above 10,000 feet. Once the BetaBlue aircraft has reached 10,000 feet, customers can begin using the Wi-Fi service. JetBlue is in a unique position among airlines because it has licensed spectrum in the United States that allows it to transmit from planes to the ground. This also positions JetBlue to offer similar service to other carriers.

All this good stuff is coming in early 2008, with additional features and functionally coming later. These services are free to customers and provided exclusively by JetBlue and LiveTV™, Yahoo!®, and BlackBerry®.

I think this is a great step forward. I travel quite a bit, so I know that being on a plane is one of the most boring and harrowing experiences. Being able to connect with friends and family on mother earth will go a long way towards making the on-board experience more useful.

I didn’t know how many business travelers fly JetBlue, but the last time I flew JetBlue about 4 weeks back, I noticed multiple people with Blackberries, so the partnership with Research in Motion makes sense, although I don’t think there are many Wi-Fi capable BBs out there now. I don’t travel JetBlue that often, but this is one more thing that will tip the scale in favor of JetBlue for my future travel.