Sunday, October 26, 2008

Gogo Inflight Internet Review

If you've recently flown on a American Airlines flight between JFK to LAX/SFO/MIA then you may have noticed the following at your gate:

Sometimes there's even a representative to address any questions you may have:

Yes, that's right. You're a lucky one. Your American Airlines flight supports Gogo Inflight Internet. American Airlines is the first airline to support wireless in the air in North America. Sometime in 2009, Delta will have all their domestic flights supporting Gogo. Pricing is $12.95 for flights more than 3 hours while flights less than 3 hours are $9.95.

Get the speed tests, customer service experience, and find out if Gogo is worth it after the jump.

Getting Connected
On your flight you'll see a gogoinflight infrastructure wireless access point running on 802.11G. The plan will need to be above 10,000 feet for you to log in and get Internet otherwise you will get a page about the service not available.

The Gogo login screen for computers:

Gogo even has a mobile optimized login screen for phones if you so wish to use that instead. Unfortunately, if you've already logged in with your laptop you won't be able to use the same connection for your phone or vice versa. It makes sense though because they wouldn't want you sharing your connection with everyone else on the plane.

You'll need to create an account if you don't have one already and enter your credit card information for billing purposes. I think it takes about 4 screens to get online (login page -> create account -> credit card information -> verification phrase).

The all important speed test
I did a couple of speed tests on Gogo and were impressed with the results:

Flight from JFK to LAX

Flight from LAX to JFK:

I did a couple more speed tests with other locations and found download and upload speeds were fairly consistent to what I got above. However, latency fluctuated a lot between the tests.

These tests show that the Gogo wireless connection is pretty good for light surfing, latency is really bad for any kind of online gaming, and e-mails are going to work fine here. This is exactly what Gogo is targeting.

User Experience
I think the part I hated most about the service was having to enter my credit card information while the person beside me and people behind me can easily see my laptop screen. I need to invest in a 3M privacy screen. Thankfully Gogo gives you the option of saving your credit card info for the next time you use their service.

Connecting was effortless and I was online after a few seconds of entering my credit card and entering one of those verification screens with random characters.

I had no issues with Youtube streaming and web pages loaded as fast as I were on my cable modem at home with Rogers highspeed Internet.

Although I was able to, for the most part, smoothly stream the CNN live broadcast of the 2008 final debate between Obama and McCain, that's not what it was designed for. You're sharing Internet between everyone else on the plane so try to be nice to everyone else trying to use the Internet and not hog the bandwidth.

I did notice that things started to slow down near the end of the flight. Possibly because more people got online.

Customer Service
I had latency problems on my 4th flight with Gogo so I contacted their care agent via their chat. I was #1 on their queue so I got a connection with an agent within 3 minutes. She needed my e-mail address to open my account then she asked me what problems I was experiencing. Within 2 messages she was able to tell me there really was a latency issue with my flight and that she would follow up with the most convenient method to me. I told her e-mail was fine.

She was polite and it sounded like she knew her stuff about the service. I'll update this entry as soon as I get a reply from her on the latency issue.

Overall I found it really good for my web surfing, my gotomypc session, Outlook, and IM'ing. I've already used it 4 times with very little issues. For the long flights with AA that feature Gogo, the $12.95 is well worth the money if it'll help you pass the time and avoid those bad ABC Eye on America programming that AA provides. Considering inflight calling use to call $3 per minute and Boingo/T-Mobile hotspot are $9.95 per day, Gogo is priced very competitively. I highly recommend using Gogo Inflight Internet but I am concerned that Internet will be slow as more people start using Gogo.

Update Nov. 21, 2008: A day after I reported the latency issue, I received an e-mail follow up that addressed all my concerns. Another thumbs up to Gogo inflight Internet!


Anonymous said...

I guess American Airlines pays for better service than Delta. My company bought some of us guys who travel a lot 30-day GoGo accounts. We've all had nothing but trouble. I tried using it on at least a dozen flights and was only able to barely check my Yahoo mail twice. The other guys had similar results. Needless to say, we told our IT people not to bother renewing the accounts.

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Anonymous said...

GoGo Internet on a flight is clearly an example of "You have no choice" because their service is just "OK" and their customer service is poor. I have had problems with the following with GoGo: VPN connection problems, they do not support all configurations of the Cisco VPN. Poor coverage within the USA or massive congestion within my flight, very poor receipts when you have the unlimited plan for my expenses, when you credit card expires or doesn't get processed they notify you late and up the price of the plan. It is one thing after another with GoGo. Clearly, if there was a choice, it would no not be GoGo. I'm an Internet hostage and they know it and behave as such.