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Airbus In-Flight Internet And E-Mail Available Now


June 16, 2001

In a oneupsmanship move following Boeing's promised Net-in-a-jet service coming in 2002, Aircraft manufacturer Airbus says in-flight e-mail and Internet services are already here now in some of its planes.

Airbus and Seattle, Wash.-based Tenzing Communications sealed a partnership earlier this month to develop in-the-air e-mail and online services. The European aircraft maker took a 30 percent stake in Tenzing, a company it valued at $148 million.

Tenzing in-flight services are available now, said company spokeswoman Laura Alikpala. Five jetliners in the Air Canada fleet are e-mail and Internet-accessed, and 8,000 passengers have registered as users since testing began in December, she said.

Full-fleet rollouts of the service are slated for Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airlines and Virgin Atlantic Airways later this year, and three other carriers are expected to sign up next week, Alikpala said. Some Singapore Air planes are testing now, and Cathay demonstrated the system last week in Hong Kong.

"It's going to be phenomenal," she said. "It's the number one request of business travelers."

Passengers will pay $4.95 for unlimited e-mail checks on a given flight, with an average 50-cent charge to read or send each message. E-mail will take 10 minutes to reach its destination, Alikpala said.

There is no charge for Internet services. "We have stored over a million Web pages that you can browse at your leisure for free," she said. "We update them during course of the flight." Realtime access will be offered at a later date.

Tenzing software runs on a computer server in the aircraft, so passengers can send and retrieve e-mail using their own laptop computers.

Tenzing is now using narrowband technology and plans to convert to broadband "once it becomes available and economically acceptable," the company said in a statement.

Boeing unveiled plans for its service, called the Connexion, on Tuesday. It will be available in the second half of 2002 on domestic flights of American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta. The three carriers will jointly own and operate the service with Boeing. Boeing's broadband service will cost users $20 an hour to cover the cost of the air-to-ground Internet connection and help offset onboard hardware costs.

Tenzing Communications Inc is at http://www.tenzing.com

Airbus is at http://www.airbus.com

Source: http://www.elcom.co.uk


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