Japan's two main airlines to launch Wi-Fi services on international flights

JAL's service will start July 15, while ANA will put Wi-Fi on some 767s and 777s in mid-2013 -- but no word on its Dreamliners yet

Japan's two main airlines will begin providing Wi-Fi on some international flights, with Japan Airlines to begin offering services next month.

JAL will start offering Wi-Fi from July 15 on flights between Tokyo and New York, it said. A one-hour plan will cost US$11.95, while 24 hours of access will cost US$21.95. The Wi-Fi will be offered for free through September for first class and other elite passengers.

The service will be offered on the New York route every other day until Aug. 5, then on every flight. In late August, Wi-Fi will be expanded to flights from Tokyo to Los Angeles and Chicago, and in October flights to Jakarta will also get access.

All Nippon Airways said its Wi-Fi service will go live in the middle of next year, initially on its international routes served by certain Boeing 777 and Boeing 767 aircraft. ANA did not say whether it will launch the services on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which it was the first airline to use.

Despite the early promise of such services, Wi-Fi has yet to become mainstream for airlines and passengers, in part due to the cost. Outfitting a single plane for the service can cost an airline over $100,000, making some companies wary, and passengers have been unwilling to pay when other entertainment is available often for free.

JAL said it will use a service provided by T-Mobile. ANA will use service provider OnAir, which uses satellites to provide its connections and lists British Airways, Qantas and Singapore Airlines among its customers.

JAL has rebounded strongly from its 2010 bankruptcy and years of safety mishaps, and is now booking strong profits under the leadership of Kazuo Inamori, the founder of electronics maker Kyocera and of KDDI, Japan's No. 2 mobile operator. News reports in Japan say the airline, which is currently mostly owned by a government-backed fund, is eyeing an IPO later this year.

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Jay Alabaster

IDG News Service
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