JetBlue Airways Corp. will start offering limited e-mail and instant messaging services for free on one of its planes next week as airlines renew efforts to offer in-flight Internet access. General Web surfing and e-mail attachments won't be permitted because of bandwidth constraints, and services on laptops and handhelds with Wi-Fi wireless access will be limited to e-mail and messaging from Yahoo. Passengers can check other personal and work e-mail - but only on two BlackBerry models that have Wi-Fi wireless capabilities, under a deal with BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd.
The JetBlue system is scheduled to make its debut Tuesday on Flight 641 from New York to San Francisco. The aircraft, an Airbus A320, is specially designated "BetaBlue" as it is used to test new entertainment services offered through JetBlue's subsidiary, LiveTV. JetBlue will be using a wireless spectrum that LiveTV bought from the Federal Communications Commission last year for $7 million. Because Internet access will use Wi-Fi and not cellular signals, the company said, it does not violate federal regulations. Use of laptops and BlackBerry devices will still be barred during takeoff and landing. And the cellular portion of the permitted BlackBerry devices - the 8820 and the Curve 8320 - must be turned off during the flight.