Technology for Staying Connected Delayed

Firing off e-mail messages or grazing the Internet from an airline seat 35,000 feet above the ground is still a bright idea on the business travel horizon. But the harsh travel industry reality after the Sept. 11 attacks and the economic climate may have slowed its arrival for the moment.

One company that hoped to wire airline cabins for e-mail and Internet access has folded, three big carriers have pulled out of another project as investors and a third firm is still at the test stage. "It is not going forward at this time," said Todd Burke, a spokesman for American Airlines AMR.N. "We pretty much agreed after Sept. 11 that it is something we will consider but it is not a high priority for us."

He was speaking of Connexion, a joint venture American entered into with the Boeing Co. BA.N along with United Airlines UAL.N and Delta Air Lines DAL.N. The company is working with a fourth airline, Lufthansa LHAG.DE, as a customer but the three U.S. based carriers have dropped out as investors. A spokesman for Connexion said they may return as customers at some point, that 17 carriers are in discussions with it and that a prototype on Lufthansa will soon be in the air.

The Boeing project is a broadband satellite-based service that would provide real-time high-speed Internet and intranet access as well as television and e-mail to airline passengers -- giving the passenger the same services with the same speed he or she has at the office or at home.

News source: Reuters

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