American Airlines Sues Gogo Over God-Awful Inflight Wi-Fi
American Airlines hates its inflight Wi-Fi almost as much as you do. Maybe even more: the airline has sued its Internet provider Gogo in hope of getting out of its contract and switching to a competitor.
In a lawsuit first spotted by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, American said it’s suing Gogo because better options are out there. “Alternative service providers are offering faster, more reliable, and less expensive satellite-based Wi-Fi services to airlines like United, Southwest, JetBlue, and Virgin America,” the airline says in the suit.
And better performance is important because passengers today believe that being six miles off the ground shouldn’t mean they have to go offline. In the suit, American argues that reliable Wi-Fi is one of the most important factors for most passengers. According to a recent survey cited by American, 66 percent of passengers consider inflight Wi-Fi availability when when choosing a flight.
“Nearly one in five customers have switched from a preferred airline to another carrier because of better Wi-Fi offerings,” American claims in the suit.
Gogo, however, has refused to be let go without a fight. “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,” a spokesman for Gogo said in an email. The company says it plans to submit a competing proposal to American for its latest satellite Wi-Fi technology, called 2Ku.
Inflight Peanuts, Pretzels, and Wi-Fi
The problem is that, according to American, Gogo hasn’t kept up with the times. The company alleges that Gogo’s air-to-ground based Wifi system “was and remains limited.” Passengers can’t use it when a plane is traveling over oceans or when it is below 10,000 feet. American also claims that Gogo gives each flight limited bandwidth that’s shared by all passengers on the flight, “so the more passengers using the service, the slower and less reliable it becomes.”
Since Gogo’s service first launched, American says, competitors like Panasonic, Thales, ViaSat, and Global Eagle have entered the market. While Gogo apparently controls around 80 percent of the inflight Wi-Fi market, according to the airline, many of its competitors offer “faster and cheaper inflight connectivity” with more broadband and access over oceans.
In the suit, American notes that its contract with Gogo permits it to switch providers if Gogo is unable to match the tech innovations of its competitors. American is apparently tired of waiting and wants to switch to ViaSat.
“American continually evaluates in-flight connectivity service to determine what best meets our customers’ needs and wants,” American said in a statement to WIRED. “We’ve notified Gogo of a competitor’s offering, and we will evaluate all of our options.”
The stock market apparently believes people want reliable inflight Wi-Fi, too. Gogo’s stock was down nearly 30 percent today. American Airlines was up 2 percent.
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