American Airlines Could Dump Gogo Inflight Wifi

For my own travel patterns, the increase of inflight wifi is the single greatest innovation we’ve seen to flying in the past decade. I realize I’m in the minority in feeling that way, but I could only do a small fraction of the flying I do if it weren’t for inflight wifi.

American-777-First-Class-27

While wifi speeds aren’t as good as what you’ll find on the ground, in many ways that’s a blessing. It means I spend more time working and less time browsing YouTube for cat videos.

As much as I love wifi, there’s still a huge variance in the speed and cost among various airlines. Some airlines (like Etihad and Lufthansa) offer very reasonably priced 24 hour passes with no data restrictions, while other airlines (like Singapore and Iberia) charge based on usage, and the costs are ridiculous.

American uses Gogo wifi for domestic flights, which works out well for me since they offer monthly passes with no data restrictions. So while the wifi isn’t fast, at least I have wifi on virtually every flight at a reasonable cost.

Well, it looks like we could see some changes to wifi on American soon, and long term it could be very good news for consumers.

American filed a lawsuit against Gogo, saying they’ve found a faster internet service. Apparently American’s contract with Gogo allows them to renegotiate terms if another company offers better service, which American has apparently found.

Via the Star-Telegram:

“After carefully evaluating the new technology and services in the marketplace, American has decided to exercise its rights under the Agreement and recently notified Gogo that ViaSat offers an in-flight connectivity system that materially improves on Gogo’s air-to-ground system,” the suit says.

American says ViaSat offers a faster service that is currently installed on United Airlines, Jet Blue and Virgin America planes.

Here’s a statement from American regarding the situation:

“American continually evaluates in-flight connectivity service to determine what best meets our customers’ needs and wants,” American said in a statement on Monday. “We’ve notified Gogo of a competitor’s offering, and we will evaluate all of our options.”

And here’s a statement from Gogo:

“We have no comment on the merits of this litigation, but we would like to note that American is a valued customer of ours and that we look forward to resolving the disagreement regarding contract interpretation that led to this declaratory judgment action,” Gogo said in a statement late Monday night.

“We believe that 2Ku is the best performing technology in the market and look forward to discussing our offer with American,” Gogo said.

Delta is in the process of upgrading their fleet with Gogo’s 2Ku satellite-based wifi, which should greatly improve speeds and also increase coverage zones. Here’s the infographic they released at the time:

Delta Air Lines WiFi Infographic

I’m still not sure I get the reason for the lawsuit here. Given that American is using Gogo’s less-updated system, you’d think they’d work together to install 2Ku instead. Or perhaps the approach American is taking is more of a threatening bargaining technique to lower the cost and/or increase their margins with Gogo.

Bottom line

I’d certainly welcome American offering improved wifi, and hope we see this come to fruition. I just hope this doesn’t turn into a bigger deal than it needs to be, and ends with a long coverage gap. Right now we’re seeing American switch business class seat providers on their 777s and 787s, and the direct result is that planes temporarily aren’t being reconfigured, which is bad for passengers. Hopefully this wifi dispute doesn’t lead to a similar situation.

What do you make of American’s lawsuit against Gogo?

Comments

  1. UA also needs to dump GoGo on p.s. service EWR-SFO/LAX. The fee is $33 for a five hour flight! Contrast and compare with $16 for a 12+ -hour TPAC flight from Panasonic on 777s and 747s. I’ve complained to UA/GS about the p.s. GoGo fee, and they are very aware of passenger dissatisfaction.

  2. @wxguy – as always, the smart plan when flying on Gogo planes for many hours is to buy the $16 day pass ahead of the flight.

    Buying on board was running $40 a couple weeks ago on my PS flight. Doubting there were many takers, so I was happy with my decent speeds.

  3. To address your last question, that you don’t get why AA is suing:

    AA is asking for declaratory relief. What this basically means is that they want a court to adjudicate a conclusion, in this instance that a faster internet product exists and that AA has the right to renegotiate its terms with Gogo under the existing contract. This is a different type of relief sought than say an injunction (forcing a party to do or not do something) or damages (money). As to why AA is doing this, it’s to get ahead of any assertion by Gogo that the other service doesn’t somehow trigger the right to renegotiate per the terms of the contract, since that’d be a reasonable next step if Gogo wants to dig its heels in and say this other product doesn’t count. Instead, AA is filing for declaratory relief and asking a court to rule that this provision has somehow been met. It clears the path for the renegotiation that AA probably wants.

  4. @UA-NYC or the $8 all day mobile device pass. You need to buy that before the flight, and also find the “other passes” button on the website. It’s not displayed prominently.

  5. GoGo is a joke. They honestly deserve to be forced out of business. Other companies have been much more innovative then them, at much lower price points.

  6. I am 100% in agreement with AA on this one. I find JetBlue’s free basic internet normally much faster than paid GoGo internet. JetBlue gets their internet from ViaSat. JetBlue’s paid premium internet is faster yet. Maybe’s GoGos new product is great but ViaSat’s technology is proven to me more effective at present.

  7. I think they want to shop around, and they’re trying to squirm out in a technicality that their planes are still on the “old service”.

    So rather than get upgraded at the current contract cost structure they can void the contract and re-negotiate with all parties.

  8. Remember you can sign up for a Flexperks card from US Bank and get 10 fee Gogo sessions a year. Worth $160 at $16 a pop or $330 at $33 a pop.

  9. If you can get faster WiFi than GoGo then AA should go for it. GoGo raised the price and justified that they were going to provide a higher speed. But I haven’t seen it. Sometimes GoGo is so slow – it is unusable.

  10. Seems like classic posturing to me. As Ed pointed out, what AA is trying to do is get a court to rule that they have the right to renegotiate the contract. Of course, by threatening to switch providers, they’ll ultimately be able to squeeze a better deal out of Gogo for 2Ku, which I suspect is the real goal here.

  11. Serious flyers for business can’t always be on one airline…so if Gogo loses American it will create a competitive problem for Delta as most of the other major carriers will be on a different service. Not going to pay for two different unlimited passes….

  12. Gogo is a bunch of scum bags. On a recent flight, they took it upon themselves to change my wifi icon on MY computer to their corporate logo, Can’t figure out how to change it back There are some instructions on how to fix this for Apple computers but not Windows 10. What nerve these guys have that they think they can make changes to customer’s computer without permission. Done with them. I’ll skip the wifi. Everytime I have to connect to WiFi now, I see their stupid corporate logo and thing “What a bunch of slimeballs.” I wonder who thought this was a great marketing idea.

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