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Ted Rubin tests out JetBlue's new Wi-Fly service.

Brand Innovators acting chief marketing officer Ted Rubin field-tests JetBlue’s new Fly-Fi high-speed broadband service. (Photo by Jeff Cutler)

JetBlue Airways on Thursday became the first airline to use high-speed Ka-band satellite connectivity with the launch of its new Fly-Fi™ branded inflight Internet product. As the next-generation inflight Wi-Fi, Fly-Fi™ allows travelers in-flight online access at the same speeds they’re accustomed to using at home and office.

“Customers should demand fast broadband and should discover what true broadband inflight connectivity means,” JetBlue senior vice president marketing and commercial strategy Marty St. George said.

The Ka-band satellite connectivity is eight times faster than older, slower inflight connections offered on other U.S. airlines. During the beta period rollout, JetBlue will offer free basic web browsing on board, called Simply Surf, on Fly-Fi equipped aircraft through June 2014.

In addition, through LiveTV JetBlue is offering a high-bandwidth live in-flight video streaming service, Fly-Fi Plus, at $9 per hour for streaming HD movies or large file downloads.

“The service is free for everything except the most bandwidth-intensive uses,” St. George said, noting that the company is trying to be judicious in its bandwidth allocation.  Satellite provider ViaSat was another integral component in bringing Fly-Fi to life.

“This is a great day for JetBlue customers, as we provide the latest reason to choose JetBlue over the competition, in addition to our low fares, most legroom in coach, free snacks and award-winning customer service,” JetBlue chief commercial officer Robin Hayes said. “As with all of JetBlue, our standard free offering beats their paid extras.”

Social media influencer and  marketing guru Rubin characterized JetBlue as a prime mover in the consumer connectivity space. “I have been saying this since I first interacted with them in 2009…it’s simple and straight forward: JetBlue gets social — how to leverage the engagement, interaction, and the relationship building that is the ultimate power and value of the platforms,” Rubin said.

St. George challenged JetBlue travelers to put the airline to the test, literally, by speed-testing the company’s Wi-Fi – or that of any airline – using SpeedTest.net, urging them to share the results on social media using #WiFiFlightSpeed. “Travelers should be able to see the speeds of all Wi-Fi systems in the sky and make an informed choice,” St. George noted.

Creating Fly-Fi™

The debut of what St. George calls “find the best onboard internet technology available” was a long time in the making; JetBlue spent more than two years working with LiveTV, a wholly owned

JetBlue's Marty St. George

JetBlue executive Marty St. George

subsidiary, and ViaSat to create the new service. With existing technology deemed too slow or too costly, JetBlue charted its own path, one that “mirrors how we approach bringing humanity back to air travel: invent a new, better experience that puts the customer’s needs first,” St. George said.

Fly-Fi took to the skies last week on three compatible aircraft, with the Long Island City, NY-based airline planning to have five online by year’s end, and 140 by the end of 2014. JetBlue’s Airbus A320 and A321 fleet will receive their Fly-Fi upgrades during 2014 at a rate of as many as 15 aircraft per month, while the Embraer 190 fleet will be completed in 2015.

JetBlue expects to allow taxi-in to taxi-out use of Fly-Fi by January 2014. On Nov. 1, JetBlue became the first airline to offer gate-to-gate use of electronic devices, implementing the policy immediately upon receiving approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

“Compared to the legacy airlines, our customers skew younger and more tech-savvy, so technology is the hallmark of our brand,” St. George said. Asked about the pithy trademarked name, he said, “We considered calling it ‘Wi-Fly,’ but thought it had that might be interpreted negatively, ‘Why fly?'”

JetBlue travelers brandish their personal electronic devices.

On Nov. 1, JetBlue became the first carrier to offer travelers gate-to-gate use of personal electronic devices.

“The entire LiveTV team has worked hard to bring the most advanced At Home In The Air™ internet to the skies, building on our portfolio of products that have helped differentiate JetBlue from its first flight back in 2000,” LiveTV President Glenn Latta said.

The LiveTV service, which includes a customizable portal, will be available to other airlines beginning in 2014. LiveTV’s proprietary solution includes content management (CMS) and content distribution (CDS) systems to automatically deliver DRM-secure content to every aircraft, providing travelers a seamless and hands-free option.

With more than 750 flights daily, Jet Blue carries approximately 30 million customers a year to 82 cities in the U.S., Caribbean and Latin America. With JetBlue, all seats are assigned, all fares are one-way, and an overnight stay is never required. Upcoming destinations include Detroit, Mich., Savannah, Ga., as well as Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. For more information please visit JetBlue.com.

While Jet Blue customers have embraced the use of using their devices aloft, they are divided on the concept of in-flight cell phone use. “As per the feedback we’ve been getting, it’s divisive,” St. George said concluding, “We’re going to let the FAA sort it out.”

 

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by Brandon Gutman
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Brandon is an expert connector and seasoned business development professional. As Principal of Brand Approved, he's led the advisory to become the bridge between brand marketers and best of breed service providers that are reshaping the industry.

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