The rehearsals are over and last-minute tweaks have been made. American Airlines' new in-flight broadband service went live Wednesday.

Share story

DALLAS — The rehearsals are over and last-minute tweaks have been made.

American Airlines’ new in-flight broadband service went live Wednesday.

For $12.95 per flight, passengers on American Airlines flights using its Boeing 767-200 will be able to surf the Internet, check e-mail, instant-message and access corporate VPN accounts using the system by Aircell.

The ground-based system — called GoGo — won’t enable any voice-based functions.

American says it will test GoGo on its fleet of 15 767-200s, which are used primarily on transcontinental flights, for three to six months.

Assuming everything goes well, the carrier may expand to the rest of its fleet.

American allowed passengers on a handful of flights to test the system on June 25 and Aug. 13.

Rival Delta Air Lines announced earlier this month that it will install the system on its fleet of 133 MD-88/90 aircraft this fall and plans to offer the system across its 330 mainline domestic fleet by mid-2009.

Several other carriers are testing in-flight connectivity. Southwest Airlines, based in Dallas, plans to test a satellite system by Row 44 Inc. next month.

Henry Harteveldt, an analyst with Forrester Research, said the new service would provide the backbone for future airline in-flight entertainment and it won’t be long before consumers come to expect the access.

“It’s a game-changer,” Harteveldt said. “You’re no longer forced to be isolated from what’s going on in your office, with your clients or with friends or family. For business travelers, this will greatly aid productivity, and for leisure travelers, it means they will be in control of their entertainment.”

In-flight connectivity will also be a key driver as airlines compete for business.

“Live TV is great for now, but the Internet is what people want for the future,” Harteveldt said. “Airlines that don’t offer Internet access are going to lose business.”