Row44 Experience – Field Report


We asked an IFExpress field reporter to check out the newly installed Row44 Broadband installation and performance on Alaska Airlines during a recent trip. He sent along this report:

“I boarded Alaska Flight 664 from SEA to DFW, a 3-3.5 hour flight. The tail number of our aircraft was #644. Let me also note that the flight outlasted my laptop battery and that there was no inseat power… a situation that may inhibit some users facing high price points. In my case, Alaska offered the service at a very respectable $5 (introductory fee) and this probably increased the passenger uptake.

1. The aircraft was equipped with 16 First Class seats and I observed 10 or so users during the flight in my service class. I would note that I became so wrapped up in work, sending and receiving emails, and web surfing that I completely forgot to check out the coach usage but I am sure it was at least as busy with Internet usage.

2. Once at cruise, logon was relatively easy. I should note that the service was branded as Alaska Airlines (not surprisingly) they took AMEX, MC, Visa via the onscreen prompts. Logon was straight forward after payment, however some users had issues selecting the aircraft LAN but that is relatively straightforward with Windows or Mac OS. I found the Wi-Fi signals to be strong and without speed variations. Really strong! I was getting a consistent 54Mbps during my battery’s life.

3. Passengers using the system all seemed to like and appreciate the availability of onboard Internet and many were watching video applications like YouTube. Many asked if other flights were so equipped and the crew noted the test status of the system. I am sure a good report was sent to headquarters because I talked to no dissatisfied users on my flight.

4. In talking with the crew, they estimated a 30% to 35% usage factor as a pretty good representation and this is very high! While slower connectivity systems are thrilled with 5%, the draw of the Internet is very powerful. If one considers Smartphone PED’s, the number could be very high, especially in coach where seat/lap space is at a premium.

5. I also took the onscreen survey which asked the obvious questions such as pricing recommendations, ease-of-access, ease-of-use, etc. My seat mate said he thought the price schedule should reflect the sector length and that he’d pay $10 for the 3-1/2 hour flight to DFW but a hop to SFO or OAK should be no more than $5. I wondered if Alaska’s SOC could link aircraft routing data to the system control unit to price the service by miles.

6. From my single flight experience I would say that laptop usage topped Smartphone and iPhone (Also a Smartphone but in a class by itself.) usage by a factor of 2X to 3X. As more of these devices enter the market, I would expect to see the numbers level out. However, the new Netbooks may offset the phone gains. Time will tell, but the issue here is the incredible onboard usage – do the math! This is going to be a moneymaker if the airlines get their rates to approximately $10 as they say they are heading.


One Response to “Row44 Experience – Field Report”
  1. Eric says:

    “I found the Wi-Fi signals to be strong and without speed variations. Really strong! I was getting a consistent 54Mbps during my battery’s life.”

    > If I go to “Status for Local Connection” on MY computer, it says 100mbps all the time. But my actual speed is only about 17mbps. Hmm, strange…

    Get the point? It is your wireless card that has the _potential_ of reaching 54mbps. How on earth (in the air) did you ever believe that you had that speed up there? Did it even feel like you reached those incredible numbers?

    But anyway – if your signals were showing full power, it only means that the wireless router onboard is transmitting without interference and/or obsticles. Which is good, obviosly.
    On the other side – is has absolutely nothing to do with your speed. I can set up a home line here at 1mbps and still get full power on the _signals_.

    I hope not Row 44 uses this review of yours in their advertising. Although, I think they would love to.

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