19 Year Old Ex-US Airways Airbus a320 First to Recieve New Gogo 2Ku In-Flight Wifi

It’s no secret that in-flight wifi is terrible.  It’s slow, it’s unreliable, and streaming capabilities are non-existent.  When in-flight wifi giant Gogo first unveiled the service, passengers were ecstatic.  We could finally access social media, our email, and even communicate with those on the ground.  Of course, at the time, the service was limited and not much was expected of the new technology.  More than a decade later, not much has changed.  The majority of passenger aircraft are still fitted with the same technology that was available when in-flight wifi first launched.  Finally, airlines are slowly rolling out new in-flight wifi and it’s a lot faster.

American Airlines managed to outfit its massive fleet with Gogo’s original onboard wifi quickly.  Today, all mainline aircraft with the exception of a few Boeing 767s and 757s feature in-flight wifi.  The service is almost always unbearably slow and often unreliable.  Again, that’s about to change.

American Airlines, like Delta and United, recognize the needs of its passengers (to an extent).  Our lives continue to become more dependent on smartphones and other devices.  Today’s slow and unreliable in-flight internet isn’t cutting it.  Gogo and ViaSat, two major in-flight wifi providers, also recognize this.  That’s why both providers have begun to introduce new faster and more reliable services.  American Airlines, like other airlines, has plans to install both Gogo’s 2Ku and ViaSat’s in-flight wifi systems.

Gogo 2Ku antennas on display (Image: Gogo)

Gogo 2Ku antennas on display (Image: Gogo)

American Airlines’ N102UW, an Airbus A320 Now Features Gogo 2Ku

On July 5th, the first aircraft in American’s fleet to receive one of these new systems flew a repositioning flight from Phoenix to Charlotte.  The next day, the aircraft re-entered regularly scheduled passenger service.  The aircraft, N102UW, a 19-year old Airbus a320 previously flown by US Airways, features Gogo’s 2Ku service.

Currently, Gogo 2Ku can provide speeds up to 70 Mbps to aircraft.  However, once new satellites are launched, Gogo expects 2Ku to offer speeds of more than 200 Mbps.  Gogo 2Ku features much greater bandwidth allowing passengers to stream videos and audio from services like Netflix, Hulu, and Spotify.

American’s first Gogo 2Ku equipped aircraft has already flown throughout the eastern United States and to destinations in the Caribbean.  Over the next two days, N102UW will visit Philadelphia, Miami, Montego Bay, and Portland, Oregon.  Passengers on these flights will be able to stream movies and TV shows over Gogo 2Ku.  However, streaming capability will still be limited.

N102UW is American Airlines' first Gogo 2Ku equipped aircraft

N102UW is American Airlines’ first Gogo 2Ku equipped aircraft

N102UW doesn’t feature power outlets meaning, once a passenger’s smartphone or laptop runs out of battery, that’s it until arrival.  The longest segment in the coming days, Philadelphia to Portland, is nearly 5 hours and 30 minutes long.  This means, to be able to use Gogo 2Ku throughout the entire flight, passengers will likely have to bring a backup battery or multiple devices.

In-Flight Wifi Is Killing Seatback Entertainment Systems

Over the past few years, American Airlines began taking delivery of hundreds of brand new aircraft from both Boeing and Airbus.  Virtually all of American’s new aircraft feature state of the art seatback in-flight entertainment systems available to passengers in all cabins.  This was a major step-up for American as nearly all of its domestic aircraft had lacked in-flight entertainment with the exception of video monitors located throughout the cabin.

For a while, it seemed as if American Airlines was going to continue taking new aircraft deliveries with seatback in-flight entertainment systems.  This is no longer the case.

In an interview last May with the CEO of American Airlines, Doug Parker, Mr. Parker made it clear that the airline wasn’t going to continue installing seatback in-flight entertainment on new aircraft.  The airline’s new Boeing 737MAX aircraft won’t feature seatback in-flight entertainment nor will Airbus narrowbodies.  Passengers love seatback entertainment, why would American do this?

American Airlines is planning on ditching seatback entertainment on narrowbody aircraft

American Airlines is planning on ditching seatback entertainment on narrowbody aircraft

The new in-flight wifi systems are ridiculously fast.  Given the choice between a few hundred options, you have little control over, or content available over streaming services and video sharing services, which would you choose?  American Airlines believes that passengers would choose faster in-flight wifi allowing them to stream virtually any content available on the internet.

This is why American Airlines isn’t placing an importance on seatback in-flight entertainment but rather, plans to continue fitting older aircraft with power outlets and installing faster wifi services on its entire fleet over the next decade or so


N102UW is quite the workhorse.  If you’re flying to or from the east coast or down to the Caribbean, you might have a chance to try out American’s first Gogo 2Ku equipped aircraft.  However, N102UW will be the only aircraft in American’s fleet to feature the service for the time being.  This will be the case at least until the fall when American resumes installation of Gogo 2Ku wifi.

What do you think about Gogo 2Ku, ViaSat, and American’s decision to go with streaming services over seatback entertainment?