Airline to test in-air Web access

American Airlines says customers will be able to test in-flight Internet access on two flights beginning today, with broader service expected to start in the following couple of weeks.

Facing record high prices for fuel, airlines are looking at entertainment and information services as ways to make a few more bucks per passenger. American plans to charge $9.95 to $12.95 for Internet service, depending on flight length.

The test, with technology partner Aircell, will begin on a flight from New York's Kennedy Airport to Los Angeles and on one return flight, said Doug Backelin, American's manager of in-flight technology.

The test service will be free, he said. The airline would not say on which flights it would conduct the test.

American is among several companies preparing to offer in-air Internet service.

Aircell is also working with Virgin America, and JetBlue Airways Corp. started testing free e-mail, instant-messaging and some services aboard one of its planes in December.

American will begin charging for Internet service soon on its Boeing 767 jets that fly from New York to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Miami.

Aircell's networks can handle a planeload of Web surfers, said Dave Bijur, an executive with the company.

Besides the paid service, passengers will be able to connect free to American's Web site, Frommer's travel guides and limited news headlines, Backelin said.

American won't filter any Internet content. Backelin said attempts to block pornography, for instance, could disrupt legitimate Web sites.

“We already have policies and procedures to deal with inappropriate material that people bring on board, including magazines and DVDs,” he said.