Sky Talk

American Airlines chooses two providers for in-flight internet

American Airlines will use two different satellite Internet companies to provide in-flight Wi-Fi for its aircraft.
American Airlines will use two different satellite Internet companies to provide in-flight Wi-Fi for its aircraft. Star-Telegram

American Airlines has decided to use two satellite internet providers to outfit new planes with in-flight Wi-Fi.

The Fort Worth-based carrier will use ViaSat’s technology on its new Boeing 737 MAX fleet and upgrade 134 existing Airbus A319 and A320 aircraft using Gogo’s 2Ku technology.

American spokesman Casey Norton said the company chose to go with two providers so it could outfit its fleet with satellite-based Wi-Fi faster than if it only used one firm.

“We want to offer a better Wi-Fi experience for our customers as fast as possible,” Norton said. “Today bandwith is somewhat limited [on our aircraft] and going into the future what we want to offer is closer to what customers have in their homes.”

Norton said it is working with all of its in-flight internet service providers to create a seamless experience for customers when it comes to pricing and logging onto the network when a passenger gets on a flight.

American currently uses Gogo’s air-to-ground technology for its regional aircraft and domestic flights, primarily Boeing 737s. The carrier uses Panasonic to provide satellite-based internet services for international flights on its wide-body fleet, including Boeing Dreamliners and 777s.

American has 100 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft on order with the first one expected to be delivered in 2017. ViaSat’s technology allows customers to stream movies, send large email files and surf the internet during a flight.

“Our satellite bandwidth enables an ‘at home’ internet experience that can serve everyone on the plane — and empowers innovative business models for airlines and their passengers,” said ViaSat chief executive Mark Dankberg.

In February, American had filed a lawsuit trying to terminate its contract with Gogo, saying it had found a faster technology from ViaSat that it wanted to use for in-flight internet. The suit was later dropped as Gogo agreed to submit a competing proposal for American’s business.

Shares of Gogo (ticker: GOGO) dropped 16 percent on Friday to close at $9.29 while Viasat shares (ticker: VSAT) rose almost 5 percent to $73.08.

Norton said American plans to eventually upgrade all of its narrowbody fleet of Airbus A319s, A321s and Boeing 737s to a satellite-based internet service. The only aircraft that will not be upgraded are the Boeing 757s and MD-80s that American plans to retire. Its regional aircraft will continue to use Gogo’s air-to-ground system.

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk