JetBlue Fly-Fi – Wireless on JetBlue Planes has Launched

December 18, 2013

One week ago I was on a JetBlue plane with 52 other people. No, this wasn’t a tiny jet, it was their regular 320 aircraft but the only people aboard were media professionals, social media luminaries and JetBlue representatives and partners. Oh, and the flight crew and pilot.

Our destination? 30,000 feet.

Our task? To put the new #Flyfi wifi service to the test.

That’s right, more than 50 of us were brought to JFK in New York to board a JetBlue flight to nowhere just to try the wifi. Before I give you my thoughts, let me share some points of interest. Realize that this information is currently accurate but JetBlue may adjust their terms of service in the future.

Further realize that I was on this plane as a social-media person and not as a journalist. This means I’m going to share lots of opinion-based missives here and fewer that are objective reporting. You have been warned!

First, here’s the photoset of my trip – – there are a couple shots here too.

Next, wifi has been on planes for a few years, what makes JetBlue’s offering different is that it COULD be operational from gate-to-gate. The satellite dish that powers their TVs is on TOP of the plane while other airlines have their entertainment/wifi transmitting and receiving equipment on the bottom. That means other planes must reach an altitude high enough for the equipment to see the satellite while JetBlue can see the satellite from the gate.

I like the service. For about two years I’ve been asking JetBlue to let me run my business from its planes. The only sticking point has been that they haven’t offered wifi. Now that obstacle has been removed. I expect a call in early 2014 to test my office-in-the-air proposal.

The wifi comes in two levels – fast for a premium and then regular speed for free. The free is perfectly fine for emails, Twitter and other basic online tasks. In fact, this is the service I used for half my flight and I had a perfectly fine experience (even with a planeload of people bogging it down). This level of service – called Simply Surf – is going to be free for a while. The JetBlue press kid said…

During the beta period rollout, JetBlue will offer free basic web browsing on board, called Simply Surf, on Fly-Fi equipped aircraft through June 2014.

The premium service is about $9 an hour and is good for fast file transfers and other intensive surfing. It’s good for watching videos, uploading larger files and conducting Google Hangouts or Skype phone calls as long as 52 other people aren’t doing the same thing at the same time. I was able to do both Skype and Google Hangouts while on the test flight. For regular consumer flights, this capability will likely be blocked as these things qualify as VOIP transmissions.

While you might not see it on your JetBlue flight right away, by the end of 2014 it should be on practically every leg JetBlue flies. In that same press release dated December 12, 2013, they said…

JetBlue launches today with three Fly-Fi aircraft, five by yearend and more than 140 aircraft by yearend 2014. JetBlue’s Airbus A320 and A321 fleet will receive their Fly-Fi upgrades during 2014 at a rate of as many as 15 aircraft per month, while the Embraer 190 fleet will be completed in 2015.

Ultimately, airlines need to do something to differentiate themselves.

JetBlue already had the prize with Satellite TV, free snacks, more room in the seats and no carts to smash your elbows. Now they’re offering another perk that makes it hard to envision being on a cramped airline that doesn’t offer these amenities. What’s your take? What questions do you have about the service or the launch?