Google gives away free Wi-Fi for the holidays

Ronny Kerr · October 19, 2009 · Short URL:

Virgin America winter travelers will be able to use in-flight Wi-Fi, courtesy of Google

airline wifiHalloween is still almost two weeks away, but that's not stopping Google from giving away presents already.

Google is partnering up with Virgin America to bring free Wi-Fi to all Virgin America flights from November 10, 2009 through January 15, 2010.

Since its introduction of the Gogo Wi-Fi service to its entire fleet of planes last May, Virgin America has seen a great deal of customers embrace the pay-to-use service. The airline company estimates that up to 15% of passengers utilize the service. On longer flights alone, like cross-country flights, Virgin America is seeing up to 25% of its passengers taking advantage of the Wi-Fi.

Widespread adoption has yet to take place, likely because passengers don't like the idea of paying extra for a service they're used to getting for free at cafes or even just around the town (on their smartphones).

On short flights (under an hour and a half), the service is priced at $5.95. On long flights (over three hours), the cost jumps to $12.95. For any flight lengths in between, customers pay $9.95. Finally, users of Internet-enabled handhelds like smartphones only pay a flat rate of $7.95 for flights over one and a half hours.

While Virgin America has always held hopes that its comprehensive Wi-Fi service would boost the airline's popularity, it seems like Google is simply hoping to remind customers about all the different services it offers:

Whether it's using Gmail to confirm an airport pick up time with your brother, doing some last minute gift shopping for your niece on Google Product Search or searching for a good sweet potato pie recipe before touchdown — we hope this makes it a bit easier to stay connected with family and friends while you're up in the air.

We don't know whether either company will get what it really wants this winter, but Virgin America customers definitely win out this holiday season.

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