In an interesting but telling move by some major US airlines, Facebook will become a free service on many flights. If you’re flying Virgin America, United Airlines, American Airlines, Delta, AirTran,US Airways or Alaska Airlines, you will now be able to access Facebook along with you complementary frosty beverage. It’s interesting in a few ways, but the choice of Facebook to be the free service only highlights the social network’s importance the many millions of people it serves. According to USA Today, the choice wasn’t very hard to make; Facebook was the most visited site on GoGo Airline WiFi hotspots, a service provided to 1,100 commercial airlines, 5,000 private jets and growing.
GoGo has been working with airlines and other third parties to try and increase awareness and acceptance of in-flight WiFi services recently, and worked with Google over the last holiday season to provide free WiFi to travelers on much of the same airlines. The technology isn’t as fancy as you might think. GoGo has built, with partner Aircell, a network of WiFi towers on the ground that point upwards, creating a wide swath of connectivity that covers pretty much the entire US airspace.
Free anything will get people’s attention, and free WiFi on a two hour flight that has you sitting next to the kids from Children of the Corn is near impossible to resist. As GoGo starts running programs that move away from a paid model, and gives free service sponsored by third parties, in-flight Wi-Fi is sure to take off.