With over half a billion users and a billionaire founder who was TIME magazine's Person of the Year, Facebook has been flying high. This month, the social network is flying high, quite literally.
In a promotion through Gogo Inflight Internet, which offers inflight connectivity in the continental U.S., Facebook will be available free in February on the Wi-Fi networks AirTran, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta, United, US Airways, and Virgin America. Other services provided can range in price from $4.95 to as much as $12.95.
Gogo has been pushing its service via partnered promotions lately to encourage more air travelers to take advantage of Wi-Fi. But don't forget in-flight netiquette!
The company partnered with Google in December, offering free Wi-Fi during the holiday travel season on AirTrans, Delta, and Virgin. The current Facebook promotion is sponsored by Ford Motor Company.
A Ford/Facebook banner appears when passengers access the Gogo wireless network. Ford's Digital Media Manager, Alex Hultgren, said the company is a big believer in social media: "Our groundbreaking reveal of the 2011 Explorer in July has proven that social media is an ideal platform for conversation and the sharing of videos and photos about our reinvented SUV."
Wi-Fi has been available for a number of years as an inflight service, but only 10% of passengers use it. Analyst Amy Cravens at the market research firm In-Stat told USA Today, "There is a lack of familiarity because of little marketing and concern among consumers that the quality does not measure up to the cost."
Virgin was the first airline to make Wi-Fi available across its entire fleet of airplanes, according to USA Today, but Delta currently has the world's largest fleet of Wi-Fi-enabled aircraft. Gogo is available in 1,100 commercial aircraft and on 5,000 private planes. As much as one-third of Virgin's passengers log on to Gogo.
Offering free inflight Wi-Fi services is akin to cable television providers who offer free weekends with paid services such as HBO and Showtime, says Glenn Fleishman, the editor of Wi-Fi Networking News.
"They want to get people accustomed to it and hook them," Fleishman told USA Today. It's a limited time free offer that Gogo hopes will lead to continued paid usage. Fleishman says while he thinks more flights could offer Wi-Fi, the service needs to be improved, particularly when it comes to video streaming and video chat.
Gogo is powered by Aircell and offers full-service inflight Internet access. Passengers can use their laptops, smartphones, and PDAs to check email or gain access to any web service. Gogo says e-mail is the most popular task of inflight users, but Facebook is the most-visited site via its service.