October 09, 2009
Internet in the Friendly Skies
Posted by Christine Hurt

OK, so "fly the friendly skies" was a United Airlines commercial, but I recently surfed the web while flying through the sky on American Airlines.  In "selected markets" American has been testing this service since the summer, but (even after flying between major markets) the first flight I've seen it on was on Saturday from San Antonio, TX to Chicago.  The service is called "gogo" and costs $9.95, an obvious price point, and one familiar to travelers who regularly purchase hotel internet service.  But, $9.95 for 2 hours is not the same as for 24 hours; however, when one has 2 hours with nothing better to do, the price may seem just right.

Well, I had a trial offer code, so my 7 year-old, Luke, and I fired up my laptop.  (The flyer in the seatback warned us about viewing adult material and told us to have consideration for our seatmates.  Since the flight was 25% full and we weren't watching porn, we were safe.)  My great idea was to get on our Netflix account and watch a kids' movie "instantly."  I began to see my future of traveling with kids as brightening substantially -- why haul around DVDs for kids to watch on a portable DVD player every trip when I have the Netflix library at my fingertips already?  Well, that brilliant plan did not work very well.  After the loading time, the movie stopped about every 3 minutes due to "slow connection," and it would have to "resize," which seemed like reloading.  I found this unbearable, although Luke seemed to think waiting one minute out of every four was well worth it to watch a new movie in the air.  After awhile, I tried to log on to Webkinz, but that gave me the "loading" message for what seemed like years.  I can only guess that internet connection in the friendly skies is to be expected, regardless of the testimonials on the aa.com website:  spotty, slow and sort of expensive.  Checking your email, OK; watching streaming video and interactive websites, not so much.

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