Last year the company offered free Wi-Fi in major US airports over the holiday period and beyond, as well as on Virgin America flights. Three of the airports - Burbank, Boston and Seattle - decided to carry on the service this year.
Now Google has extended the number of airlines offering in-flight Wi-Fi, although not the plans for airports themselves, making the offer open to around 15 million people on 700 planes. The free offer runs from 20 November to 2 January.
When the news release arrived, the first response in Sleuth's office was, "Yes, but is it worth it to fly Delta?". Sleuth has no experience in that airline but Virgin America is better than most, albeit at a price.
The scheme is being run on the three airlines that use the Gogo internet system run by Aircell. The company has a network of 92 towers set up across the US that relay data between the plane to the ground.
Typically air travellers have found speeds to be around 600Kbit/s, but this is highly variable. With Wi-Fi addicts expected to jam these airlines contention ratios are likely to shoot up so speeds may drop further. VoIP is also blocked.
Delta, Airtran and Virgin American are not the only airlines to use the Gogo system but do have their entire fleets equipped rather than selected routes. For many Christmas travellers, Sleuth included, the flights to and from home will be a lot more pleasant and productive.
However, don't bank on getting that free signal. There are reportedly serious security concerns in the TSA about the possibilities of using Wi-Fi to set off explosive devices.
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