You've heard of Wi-Fi . . . but how about Wi-Fly?

That's the moniker tech analysts are using to label new inflight internet access applications. That's right. Starting this month on select airlines, you can start checking email, watching the latest batch of YouTube videos, or catch the score of the Celtics game on
The New York Times is reporting that Jet Blue, Virgin American and Alaskan Airlines are all rolling out test programs that allow fliers to access the Internet. The Times says that services will range anywhere from free of charge to $10 per flight.

“I think 2008 is the year when we will finally start to see in-flight Internet access become available, but I suspect the rollout domestically will take place in a very measured way,” Henry Harteveldt, an analyst with Forrester Research, told the newspaper. But “in a few years time, if you get on a flight that doesn’t have Internet access, it will be like walking into a hotel room that doesn’t have TV.”

The technology will have its limits (you can't log on when the plane is either taking off or landing and initially, at least, download times could be slower than you might like) but analysts like Harteveldt expect the airlines and the companies that make in-flight internet access software to clean up financially. Some airlines will even save you the trouble of whipping out your lap top. Virgin, for example, will offer internet access as part of its seat-back entertainment system, enabling passengers who are not traveling with laptops or smartphones to send messages on a flight. According to the Times, the network can also potentially be used for communications within the plane, like food and drink orders — something Virgin America already does with its seat-back system.

Expect some glitches, but as time passes, easy, fast internet connections 30,000 feet in the air should become reality by 2010.

Remember, though, that the Flight Attendants have been telling us for years that "Federal law prohibits the use of any wi-fi technology... blah, blah, blah"... Federal law... Yeah right....

Now that there is profit to be made, watch how fast they the airlines change their tune...


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