SAS Airline Installs Wireless Net Access

Scandinavian Airlines on Wednesday said it will offer high-speed Internet access aboard some long-haul flights, letting passengers surf the Internet or send e-mail. As signed a contract with Boeing Co. to install its wireless broadband service, Connexion, aboard two planes in February. The rest of its long-haul fleet will be equipped in 2005. The cost wasn't disclosed. In May, Boeing signed a similar contract with German airline Lufthansa to equip all 80 of its long-haul jets with the service. In June, United Airlines said it would offer two-way e-mail capability aboard all its domestic flights by the end of the year.

The first SAS flights to be equipped with the technology will be trans-Atlantic and routes to and from Asia, said Jens Willumsen, senior vice president for market and product management at Scandinavian Airlines. Passengers will be charged between $30 and $35 a flight for unlimited use, Willumsen said. Connexion's service requires installing two antennas on each aircraft, one to transmit data to satellites and one to receive data. A server and routing system inside the plane relay signals to and from plug-in ports at the seats or wireless networking cards in passengers' laptops, essentially turning the entire plane into a Wi-Fi hotspot.

"The Nordic region is one of the world's most IT-dense areas and the ability to communicate easily from the air was high on our passengers' list of priorities," Willumsen said. Scandinavian Airlines Systems - the joint carrier of Sweden, Denmark and Norway - operates hotels and airline support businesses. SAS also operates Spanair, Braathens, Wideroe and Air Botnia. Willumsen said the company hopes the service could drive revenue, adding the airline wants to be known for its "solutions and electronics" to make "travel fit smoothly into passengers' lives."

The company has been struggling to cut costs and save money. In April, it said it would eliminate 4,000 jobs, or nearly 13 percent of its work force, to counter dropping demand and increased competition from low-cost, no-frills carriers. The company employs nearly 31,000 workers.

View: SAS website

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