Inflight Web service hopes to boost interest with free Facebook access

Summary:Can the popularity of Facebook give in-flight WiFi a boost in business? Seven airlines are betting that it can - and they're partnering with Gogo Inflight Internet on a promotion to give away free access to the popular social networking site for travelers.

Can the popularity of Facebook give in-flight WiFi a boost in business? Seven airlines are betting that it can - and they're partnering with Gogo Inflight Internet on a promotion to give away free access to the popular social networking site for travelers.

Though in-flight WiFi services have been around for some time, analysts say that 10 percent or fewer of the passengers are actually using it, according to a USA Today report. Gogo teamed with Google during the holidays to offer free WiFi on Virgin, American Airlines and AirTran flights. This Facebook promotion brings in United Airlines, US Air, Delta Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

In-flight WiFi services are limited on some flights, not supporting things like video or audio streaming. Equipping airplanes with WiFi Internet is an expensive undertaking and takes a big investment. At the same time, Ash ElDifrawi, Gogo's chief marketing officer told USA Today that the company was sensitive about how much travelers would be willing to pay - especially if there were Web services they couldn't utilize.

Offering free Facebook access not only appeals to a larger - and growing - audience, but it gives those who ordinarily might not use the service a chance to test drive it. Those who want to surf elsewhere will be charged the regular rate for Gogo's services - ranging from $4.95 for a short flight to $12.95 for a long one.

Topics: Mobility, Collaboration, Networking, Social Enterprise, Wi-Fi

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