One of the few remaining Internet-free havens vanished Wednesday as American Airlines launched airborne e-mail, Web and other online services on some of its longer nonstop flights.
The move could create a new stream of revenue for an aviation industry facing high fuel prices and other challenges. But it also could create new headaches as passengers retrieve sensitive e-mails and websites in confined quarters.
It also could end a common excuse people have to avoid checking "urgent" e-mail requests from their bosses.
American, a unit of Fort Worth-based AMR Corp., tested in-flight Internet access on two flights June 25. With Wednesday's launch, the airline is making service available for $12.95 per flight on its 15 Boeing 767-200 planes connecting New York with Los Angeles, San Francisco and Miami.
"Today the days of being cut off from the rest of the world while in the air become history," said Jack Blumenstein, chief executive of Aircell, the company providing Internet services for American and other airlines.
JetBlue Airways Corp. offers free Wi-Fi service on one aircraft through its LiveTV subsidiary, limited to e-mail without attachments, instant messaging and some services from Amazon.com. Continental Airlines Inc. also plans to use LiveTV with similar restrictions.
Aircell's Gogo service is still formally a test, meaning that American could drop it after three to six months or expand it to other planes, depending on customer adoption and feedback.
The system will block Internet-based phone calls, giving passengers relief from chatty seatmates.