When the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced on Oct.31 that it was ending its ban on personal digital assistants (PDAs) in flight, several airlines rushed to become the first to get FAA approval to offer that option to passengers. Indeed, JetBlue Airways over the weekend said it had received approval for gate-to-gate PDA service from the FAA at 4:15 p.m. EDT on Nov. 1, and claimed to be the first to implement that policy immediately.
JetBlue said the first commercial flight of any U.S. airline to allow gate-to-gate PDA use was its own Flight 2302 from New York’s JFK to Buffalo, scheduled departure time 4:30 p.m. EDT All JetBlue customers were immediately allowed to start using PDAs during all phases of flight on all flights. That means smartphones, tablets and other small PDAs.
There was only one problem: If you thought you could connect to the Internet on your PDA on a JetBlue flight, think again. JetBlue has yet to install its new Wi-Fi system on its fleet and may not do so until the end of the year, though at one time it was supposed to begin offering Wi-Fi as early as this month.
In addition, if you are on another domestic carrier, you still can’t access Wi-Fi when your flight is below 10,000, because Gogo, the main Wi-Fi provider for most U.S. airlines, features a ground-based system that doesn’t operate below 10,000 feet. Gogo now has a satellite-based system too, so that could change. But for now, passengers will have to content themselves with using PDA features that do not require Internet access, at least if they are on a JetBlue flight or are flying below 10,000 feet.
When JetBlue finally gets its own Wi-Fi system, however, it should be able to offer Internet service throughout the flight, since it has partnered with ViaSat to offer a new satellite-based broadband service. As for other airlines, Gogo furnishes Wi-Fi service for American Airlines (most flights), Delta (all flights), United (some flights), US Airways (some flights), AirTran (some flights), Virgin America (all flights), Alaska Airlines (all flights) and Frontier Airlines (all flights). Another in-flight Wi-Fi vendor, Global Eagle, provides service for Southwest and Allegiant.