Three airlines to drop Boeing's Connexion service

A project by The Boeing Co. to put high-speed Internet connections in its planes looks unlikely to take off on time, as its three airline partners in the joint venture have decided to pull out of the project, the company said Thursday.

Boeing's three primary partners in Connexion by Boeing have withdrawn their financial support in light of their severe financial losses following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S., said Charlie Miller, Boeing's U.K.-basked spokesman.

The partners are AMR Corp.'s American Airlines Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc. and UAL Corp.'s United Airlines Inc. But Miller stressed that though the joint venture in Connexion has been ended, Connexion itself will remain in operation, though its launch plans have been pushed back.

"The joint venture is now suspended, however, Connexion is to continue and we will work together with our former partners to define and refine Connexion services in the future," Miller said.

Announced in June, Connexion was to be installed in up to 1,500 airliners beginning in mid-2002, and was to offer two-way broadband e-mail, Internet, corporate intranet, live television and other entertainment services via satellites. Connexion was to provide passengers with Internet connection speeds of at least 56k bps (bits per second) at cost of between US$10 and $20 an hour.

Delta Air Lines had decided in October to reevaluate its involvement with Connexion due to the cost. The service required the airlines to retrofit their aircraft with Ethernet-type wiring and phased-array antennas to connect to a high-speed satellite service and such extra costs have since become a luxury for the cash-strapped airline industry, Delta said at the time. German airline Lufthansa AG on Thursday said its plans for Connexion remained unchanged. In June, it became the fourth airline -- and the first outside the U.S. -- to say it would offer Boeing's planned service in its aircraft. "We will stay involved (with Connexion). As the plans have been, we are sticking to those," a spokeswoman for Lufthansa said.

Boeing said Lufthansa was the company's only active partner on the project.

"Lufthansa is currently the only airline we are working with on Connexion, and the plan is to have the pilot program up and running with them by late 2002 or early 2003," Boeing's Miller said.

"And though Lufthansa is the only commercial airline we are currently working with, we are also working with other operators, including some governments, as the services we are working on would be applicable elsewhere," Miller said.

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