Get Onboard & Online

Get your laptops (preferably a netbook if you’re flying on Economy), charger, power adaptors and mobile phones (preferably an Apple iPhone because some aircraft have iPod/iPhone connectivity and you don’t want to do a switch-a-roo regularly between charging your phone and powering your laptop, do you?)… cos you’re gonna be able to use them on selected Singapore Airlines’ flights come 2011.

Onboard wifi on selected Singapore Airlines aircraft in 2011

That’s right – wireless internet access, text messaging and even phone calls will be possible pretty soon. This is thanks to a multi-million deal that Singapore Airlines has signed with inflight communications provider, OnAir to equip all Airbus A380, Airbus A340-500 and Boeing 777-300ER aircraft with wi-fi and mobile access. As of now, the airline remains undecided on whether to allow phone calls even though the technology will be present – the airline industry, as well as passengers, are fearful that the liberalization of the skies MAY bring about the end of peaceful flights with passengers yakking away into their phones, disturbing everyone else onboard. Even if phone calls aren’t allowed, you can expect to be able to surf online wirelessly, along with sending and receiving text messages IF you somehow get bored of the extensive library of movies, dramas, documentaries, variety shows, games and music on offer. The airline understands that nothing is more important than Tweeting or typing a silly follow-up on your friends’ Walls or clicking on the Like button to some lame shit that your friend just discovered on YouTube and decided to show how immature and unsophisticated he or she is to be able to see the fun in such lame-ass clips such as Mr Orange or Mad TV, and for the opposite gender-challenged, the activation of the iPhone app, Grindr, to look for like-minded people looking for something stimulating or something intangible.

No longer is Audio-Video-On-Demand (AVOD) with its extensive library of the latest movies, music, dramas and games, something that people really want – the world’s simply no longer a private place anymore. In today’s modern society where one’s relevance depends on how much one is connected, online or ‘in-the-know’, the skies cannot remain the limit particularly with newer, longer and more direct nonstop flights so increasingly, people cannot afford to be ‘unplugged’ for too long. However, the concept of onboard internet and inflight calls is not new – for about two decades now, you could swipe your credit card to make a call, while onboard internet was offered in the premium cabins in the late 90s but I guess one could say that the idea was too far ahead of its time; laptops were big, bulky and expensive while phones still didn’t have color then. In addition, wi-fi technology then was too expensive to be commercialized and extensively adopted.

Malaysia Airlines offer calls from mobile phones but no wifi available

For the foreseeable future, you need not worry too much because even though the age of wireless internet onboad has arrived, it is STILL pretty expensive so far. Airlines such as Delta, United and American have already rolled out onboard wi-fi services in the past two years and if their charges are any indication, I’m just gonna switch my iPhone to flight-mode at best, or keep it off and utilize the airline’s inflight entertainment instead. You WILL be charged for sending AND receiving text messages; the free incoming calls that Singaporeans are so used to do not apply as the skies are considered international territory.

*Here’s what US carriers such as United and Delta are charging for utilizing Gogo Inflight Internet services:

Gogo Unlimited (monthly): USD 34.95
Gogo 24 Hour Pass: USD 12.95 (on a single airline, multiple flights, within a 24-hour period)
Gogo Flight Pass: USD 4.95 (flights up to 1.5 hours), USD 9.95 (flights not exceeding 3 hours), USD 12.95

For text messaging and calls using mobile devices including phones, iPads and iPod Touches:

Gogo Mobile Pass: USD 4.95 (flights up to 1.5 hours), USD 7.95 (flights not exceeding 3 hours)

For internet usage on cellphones:

Gogo Mobile 30 Day Pass: USD 19.95

Singapore Airlines will be the first Asian airline to implement inflight connectivity on selected aircraft even though Cathay Pacific was the first Asian airline to announce the adoption of such a service. The Hong Kong-based carrier will however, unveil the service fleetwide on all aircraft beginning 2012 using a different provider. Personally, if I traveled on business frequently, which this service will undoubtedly appeal to the most, I’d prefer that airlines utilize a common platform such as Gogo in the US. One advantage about Gogo is that every single North American carrier has adopted a standard platform, which means I’m not limited by the airlines or my schedules, but what suits me the best.

*Please note that the charges by Gogo are not representative of the charges that Singapore Airlines will offer, neither should you apply to get a Gogo account unless you plan on flying domestic in the States.

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