An idea that’s going to fly

Planning to grab a pillow and relax on your next Air Canada flight? Being 30,000 ft. in the air may no longer be an excuse to put work on the backburner: Air Canada recently announced it will begin offering passengers on-board Internet and e-mail access throughout its fleet.

According to Calvin Rovinescu, the airline’s executive vice-president of corporate development and strategy, Air Canada became the first carrier in the world to offer such a service to its customers when it launched a pilot project last November. Passengers took to the idea, and Rovinescu says many of them told Air Canada they would consider Internet access a big factor when it comes time to select an airline.

Air Canada passengers equipped with laptops will have a 56K bit/sec. connection from seat-back phones to an on-board server, which holds cached Web pages and transfers e-mail on a store-and-forward basis. On domestic flights, Air Canada will transmit e-mail at 9.6K bit/sec over the North American Airfone network, while international flights will send and receive e-mail at 24K bit/sec over the Inmarsat satellite network. Bell Mobility will provide travellers with the access via its on-board communications systems. Seattle-based Tenzing Communications Inc. is providing the interface software.

The service will be deployed gradually and should be complete by the end of 2003. In the meantime, customers can continue to use the existing service on the five equipped aircraft at no charge.

Passengers can access the system by registering for the service on the Air Canada Web site at