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United Airlines adds Wi-Fi for overseas flights

February 10, 2013|By Hugo Martin
  • United Airlines is adding Wi-Fi service for long-haul overseas flights.
United Airlines is adding Wi-Fi service for long-haul overseas flights. (Associated Press )

United Airlines has been one of the last major airlines to jump into the business of offering on-board wireless Internet. But it's trying to make up for its tardiness.

The Chicago-based carrier offers Wi-Fi in about 3% of its fleet of about 700 planes, one of the lowest rates of any major carrier in the nation, according to a recent study.

But United recently became the first U.S.-based international carrier to offer satellite-based Wi-Fi Internet for passengers traveling on long-haul overseas flights.

The carrier has installed satellite-based Wi-Fi on nearly a dozen planes, with plans to expand the service to more than 300, or about 43% of the fleet, by the end of the year.

“With this new service, we continue to build the airline that customers want to fly,” said Jim Compton, vice chairman and chief revenue officer at United.

Satellite-based Wi-Fi is typically as fast as ground-based Wi-Fi, experts say, plus it can give passengers Internet access when flying over areas where cellular towers don’t exist -- such as the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

Of course, there is a price to pay for the service.

United is charging between $3.99 and $14.99 for standard speed, depending on the duration of the flight, and between $5.99 and $19.99 for faster speeds.

United is not the only airline to offer satellite-based Wi-Fi. Southwest Airlines, the nation’s largest domestic carrier, offers satellite-based Internet through Westlake Village company Row 44.

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