American Airlines Launches Wi-Fi Widget To Give Travelers A Heads-Up

There's little doubt that having Wi-Fi on planes is one of the greatest inventions of all time (or at least this decade), but actually finding a flight that's Wi-Fi enabled can be tough. Darn near impossible, even. American Airlines is looking to make the process or making your day or breaking your heart just a bit simpler with its new Wi-Fi Widget, which enables passengers to check to see if their flight will be Internet-ready 24 hours before takeoff.

It's the first US legacy airline to launch such an application, and given that it's Web-based, it can be loaded on any PC, notebook, smartphone, etc. We were half expecting AA to just release an iPhone app, but in a way this is far better; it allows just about everyone to use it, not just iPhone owners. We certainly wish we could learn about Wi-Fi enabled flights at the time of booking, but until every single airplane has Gogo onbard, we understand that changes in flight plans will prevent that from happening.

As of now, American has Wi-Fi on 150 of its MD-80 planes, while 15 of its Boeing 767-200 aircraft are equipped. In the near future, customers will also be able to determine if their flight has Wi-Fi by looking for the Wi-Fi symbol on the AA electronic gate information display screens at the airport.

Customers can visit to find and use the Wi-Fi Widget. The tool allows travelers to determine if their American Airlines flight will be scheduled with Wi-Fi enabled aircraft. Customers can also embed the Wi-Fi Widget in their own blogs, Web sites, and social network sites, which makes finding Wi-Fi on American Airlines flights even easier.

Gogo service turns an American Airlines flight into a Wi-Fi hotspot. Once the aircraft has reached 10,000 feet, users can simply turn on their Wi-Fi enabled devices - such as laptops, smartphones and handheld PDAs - then open their browsers and be directed to the Gogo portal page where they sign up and begin surfing. Gogo also provides complimentary access to all that has to offer, including booking flights, hotel stays and rentals, checking AAdvantage accounts, and more.

Once connected, passengers can surf the Web, check e-mail, send instant messages, access a corporate VPN, and even start holiday shopping with SkyMall. By placing an online SkyMall order onboard, customers will receive a $12.95 discount on orders totaling more than $100 - covering the price of the Gogo session.

Each paid Gogo session includes full Internet, e-mail and VPN access. Cell phone and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service use are prohibited.