Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Row 44 Moves Closer to WiFi Installations on Planes in Europe

Row 44, the inflight WiFi company that's currently installing its system on Southwest Airlines' entire fleet, is moving closer to European operations.

Row 44, based in California, says it has received a so-called Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to install its satellite-based system on commercial aircraft in Europe.

“EASA approval marks another major milestone for Row 44, clearing the final hurdle for us to offer our in-flight broadband connectivity platform on another continent,” said Row 44 chief commercial officer Howard Lefkowitz. "Planes equipped with it will soon be flying all across Europe with a full menu of in-flight broadband services – internet, video, e-commerce, games and more. We will be pioneering a whole new flying experience for passengers throughout Europe," said Lefkowitz, who formerly was the president of, an big online concierge service in Las Vegas.

Row 44’s EASA STC covers Boeing 737-700, 800 and 900 series airframes.

Competitor Aircell, whose Gogo system has been favored by other U.S. airlines, depends on land-based antennas. Gogo is currently operating on 1,044 mainline airplanes flown by Delta, United, US Airways, Virgin America, American, Alaska, Air Canada and AirTran. While the Gogo system is available only on some aircraft of most of the airlines that have signed on, the entire Delta mainline fleet is equipped. And Delta said in November that it plans to expand Gogo to its fleet of 223 larger regional jets, the ones with two-class cabins. When that expansion is completed later this year, 80 percent of Delta's domestic fleet will have Gogo service.

Meanwhile, United Airlines is also rumored to be testing Row 44 on at least one of its 757s, concurrent with trial runs of the Gogo system on other planes in its fleet.

Last September, JetBlue and another satellite WiFi system provider, ViaSat, announced a preliminary agreement for ViaSat to install its system on JetBlue's fleet of about 160 planes by next year.

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