Some news ...


    Gogo's In-Flight Internet To Move at Jet Speed
    By Seth Fitzgerald, September 12, 2013 3:35PM

    Business professionals, along with regular fliers, love the ability to access the Internet while on a plane. However, the Wi-Fi data speeds on most planes is horrendous and prevents users from accessing videos and other larger files.
    Gogo, which already equips some airlines with in-flight Internet access, has come out with a new technology capable of providing 60 Mbps data speeds. The technology behind this innovation is called Gogo GTO (Ground to Orbit) which can use satellites for downloads and cellular networks for uploads, thereby increasing data speeds.

    Hybrid In-Flight Internet Service

    To start, Gogo will work with Virgin America to launch the GTO service in 2014. Right now, Gogo's Internet service for airplanes only provides regular data speeds of 3-10 Mbps, about the same speed as 3G wireless . Gogo GTO should be able to reach speeds 20 times faster.

    The company already has ground-based receivers that will still be used for uploads, but by providing a hybrid service, downloads will come significantly faster from satellites. Other companies are only able to provide a max of 10 Mbps, so the 60 Mbps is far superior to what any other company is offering for in-flight Internet service.

    Gogo said it will use Ku microwave antennae to communicate with the satellites. Ku antennas are smaller than the ones used on airplanes which are partnered with other Internet service providers.

    The Price of Internet

    Gogo has yet to announce how much it will charge for the upgraded in-flight Internet service, but when the company upgraded its service last year to 10 Mbps the cost rose, and it likely will do the same this time.

    Just like on-ground Internet service, it is not cheap to connect on an airplane. Gogo currently charges $45 a month for frequent fliers, which provides unlimited Internet access, and also offers a $14 day pass. Either way, airline tickets are already expensive, so adding $14 is not always easy.

    At the same time, it makes sense that accessing the Internet -- even for just a few hours -- is expensive, especially in the United States. For years, people have been complaining about how much regular Internet service providers charge each month.
    For speeds that are significantly less than what is found overseas, Internet users in the U.S. pay the same or more than a customer in Asia would. On top of that, the speeds from Gogo are even more impressive than they look.

    Right now, the average Internet speed for an American home is around 8 Mbps. When compared with the 60 Mbps potential from Gogo, most people would love to have that type of service in their home for $45 a month.


    Airlines Crunch Passenger Data for Customized Offers
    By Scott Mayerowitz, October 1, 2013 10:28AM

    U.S. airlines are introducing a new bevy of fees, but this time passengers might actually like them. Unlike the first generation of charges which dinged fliers for once-free services like checking a bag, these new fees promise a taste of the good life, or at least a more civil flight.
    Extra legroom, early boarding and access to quiet lounges were just the beginning. Airlines are now renting Apple iPads preloaded with movies, selling hot first class meals in coach and letting passengers pay to have an empty seat next to them. Once on the ground, they can skip baggage claim, having their luggage delivered directly to their home or office.

    In the near future, airlines plan to go one step further, using massive amounts of personal data to customize new offers for each flier.

    "We've moved from takeaways to enhancements," says John F. Thomas of L.E.K. Consulting. "It's all about personalizing the travel experience."

    Carriers have struggled to raise airfares enough to cover costs. Fees bring in more than $15 billion a year and are the reason the airlines are profitable. But the amount of money coming in from older charges like baggage and reservation change fees has plateaued. So the airlines are selling new extras and copying marketing methods honed by retailers.

    Technological upgrades allow airlines to sell products directly to passengers at booking, in follow-up emails as trips approach, at check-in and on mobile phones minutes before boarding. Delta Air Lines recently gave its flight attendants wireless devices, allowing them to sell passengers last-second upgrades to seats with more legroom.

    And just like Amazon .com offers suggested readings based on each buyer's past purchases, airlines soon will be able to use past behavior to target fliers.

    "We have massive amounts of data," says Delta CEO Richard Anderson. "We know who you are. We know what your history has been on the airline. We can customize our offerings."

    Other airlines are experimenting with tracking passengers throughout the airport. In the future, if somebody clears security hours before their flight, they might be offered a discounted day pass to the airline's lounge on their phone.
    Airlines have yet to find the right balance between being helpful and being creepy. So, for now, most of the data is being used to win back passengers after their flight is delayed or luggage is lost.

    "We want to get back to a point where people feel like travel isn't something to endure, but something they can enjoy," says Bob Kupbens, Delta's current vice president of marketing and digital commerce.

    Most passengers select flights based on the lowest base fare. The online travel industry plays up that price sensitivity with sites named, and
    When airlines try to raise fares, they are met with resistance.

    "Customers are very quick to either change travel plans, or use another carrier or not travel at all," says Jim Corridore, an airline analyst with Standard & Poor's Capital IQ.

    In the past three years, airlines have tried to hike fares 48 times, according to During 29 of those attempts, bookings fell enough that airlines abandoned the increase.
    Airlines are also starting to bundle items. Passengers purchase items they might not necessarily buy alone; it also simplifies the dizzying array of offers.

    "I don't want you to have to do the math every time," says Rick Elieson, managing director of digital marketing at American Airlines.

    American offers a package for $68 roundtrip that includes no change fees, one checked bag and early boarding. Delta is experimenting with a $199 subscription that includes a checked bag, early boarding, access to exit row seats and extra frequent flier miles on all flights a passenger takes between now and Jan. 5.


    ORD watcher
    The $300 Transatlantic Airline Ticket Is Coming
    By Justin Bachman October 11, 2013

    For many airlines, replicating a low-cost Southwest (LUV) or EasyJet model on long international routes is a bit like the hunt for cold fusion: awesome … in theory. Well, the hypothetical may be nearing reality for airlines, if not for nuclear researchers.

    As Boeing’s (BA) new carbon-composite 787 Dreamliner begins filtering into the world’s airline fleets—followed next year by the similar Airbus A350—the idea of long flights with lower fares and actual profits is gaining traction. Norwegian Air Shuttle, the first low-cost carrier to order the 787, wants to be among the first to do so, Chief Executive Bjørn Kjos said Oct. 10 in an interview at Bloomberg’s New York headquarters. Norwegian shocked many airline industry observers with a massive, 222-plane order last year with Boeing and Airbus, betting on huge growth for the low-cost, long-haul model; it has already sold one-way, nonstop tickets from New York to Scandinavia for less than $300.

    Will it work? Previous low-cost, low-fare ventures have consistently faltered because the cost of fuel for transoceanic flights is enormous. Kjos, an attorney and former fighter pilot for the Norwegian military, has heard the skepticism before. “They haven’t had the tools to do it,” he says. “The Dreamliner is the first airplane that can do it.”

    STORY:A New Airline for America's Cheapest Travelers?

    The airline has two 787s, with a third arriving in November and a fourth in 2014. It opened a crew base in Bangkok in September and plans two more abroad soon, in New York and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to capitalize on growth it expects from Americans seeking cheaper flights to Europe and from Asians on holiday who want to travel to the U.S. East Coast. Nearly a third of its current transatlantic traffic originates in America, and Kjos says as many as 500 million people in Asia and India will begin traveling abroad over the next 10 to 15 years.

    Ryanair (RYAAY) boss Michael O’Leary has long dreamed of $10 fares across the Atlantic, coupled with a lavish business-class cabin to help subsidize those riding in the back. In Asia, several carriers, such as Air Asia X, JetStar, and Scoot, have been attempting to revolutionize the long-haul, low-cost model. Early last year, Air Asia X dropped its flights from Malaysia to London and Paris due to the fuel costs of an older Airbus. The company says it will resume European service in 2015 with an A350. Scoot, the budget offshoot of Singapore Airlines, plans to acquire 20 787s, with the first arriving in 2014.


    ORD watcher
    Crammed Airplane Seating Just Got Worse

    by Reena Ganga (RSS feed) on Oct 18th 2013 at 5:00PM


    If you didn't think flying could get any more uncomfortable than it already is, brace yourself, because a Russian airline is set to take the title for cramming the most seats on any commercial jet in the world.

    Transaero Airlines is preparing to outfit its fleet of A380s and says it will furnish the planes with 652 seats across three different service classes -- although naturally the vast majority of the seats (616 to be precise) will be dedicated to the economy class section of the plane. To give you a comparison, most other A380s are outfitted with 470-520 seats, so the Russian carrier's plans represent a pretty significant step up in capacity.
    And while a body-constricting, knee-knocking, claustrophobia-inducing experience might be tolerable on a short domestic flight, the bad news is that these sardine-can-in-the-sky planes will be flying long haul. Some of the routes being proposed by Transaero include Moscow-Thailand and Moscow-Dominican Republic. But even domestic flights can be long haul when you're talking about a country as large as Russia. One of the routes on the table includes Vladivostok to Moscow which clocks in at 4,000 miles. That's a heck of a long distance to be squished up between 651 other weary fliers.


    ORD watcher
    Singapore Airlines Cancels the World's Longest Commercial Flights
    by Zach Everson (RSS feed) on Nov 5th 2013 at 4:43PM

    The longest commercial flights in the world -- Singapore Airlines' flights 21 and 22, running between Singapore and Newark, New Jersey -- are slated for cancellation The Economist's Gulliver blog reports. The flights traverse 9,525 miles in about 19 hours.

    Qantas's 8,576-mile route between Sydney and Dallas now has the top honor, according to USA Today, with Delta's Atlanta to Johannesburg flight (8,434 miles) a close third.
    Singapore Airlines cancelled the flights as part of a deal with AirBus, the Economist writes, in which "Singapore will get five new A380s and 20 new A350s, and the manufacturer will buy back the A340-500s that the airline uses on its super-long-haul routes."


    ORD watcher
    Pilot Reports Bird Strike While Landing At JFK Last Night
    Last night, a Virgin America flight arriving from San Francisco apparently had some trouble as it was landing at JFK Airport: Its pilot reported that birds hit the plane.

    WABC 7 got photos of the damage—which shows blood and the dented engine—and reports, "The incident happened just before 5:30 p.m. on Virgin American flight 220 from San Francisco... The pilot reported smelling smoke in the cockpit and declared an emergency."


    The plane managed to land safely and WABC 7 says no one was injured. The authorities are investigating.

    Bird strikes are not unusual at NYC's airports (look at this video), with the most famous example being US Airways Flight 1549 which landed in the Hudson after a bird strike (feathers were found in the engine). The feds and city have made it an annual ritual to kill thousands of geese for our air travel pleasure.


    Feds Announce U.S. Test Sites for Drone Aircraft

    By Michelle Rindels, December 31, 2013 8:39AM

    The Federal Aviation Administration announced six states on Monday that will develop test sites for drones, a critical next step for the march of the unmanned aircraft into U.S. skies.
    Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia will host the research sites, the agency said.

    Drones have been mainly used by the military, but governments, businesses, farmers and others are making plans to join the market. Many universities are starting or expanding drone programs.
    "These test sites will give us valuable information about how best to ensure the safe introduction of this advanced technology into our nation's skies," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement.

    The FAA said when selecting the sites it considered geography, climate, location of ground infrastructure, research needs, airspace use, aviation experience and risk.
    In the case of Alaska, the FAA cited a diverse set of test site range locations in seven climatic zones. New York's site at Griffiss International Airport will look into integrating drones into the congested northeast airspace.
    The state of North Dakota already has committed $5 million to the venture and named a former state Air National Guard Commander as its test site director.

    The FAA does not allow commercial use of drones, but it is working to develop operational guidelines by the end of 2015, although officials concede the project may take longer than expected. The FAA projects some 7,500 commercial drones could be aloft within five years of getting widespread access to American airspace.
    "Safety continues to be our first priority as we move forward with integrating unmanned systems into U.S. airspace," FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in a statement. "We have successfully brought new technology into the nation's aviation system for more than 50 years, and I have no doubt we will do the same with unmanned aircraft."

    An industry-commissioned study has predicted more than 70,000 jobs would develop in the first three years after Congress loosens drone restrictions on U.S. skies. The same study projects an average salary range for a drone pilot between $85,000 and $115,000.
    Representatives from winning states were jubilant about the FAA announcement.
    "This is wonderful news for Nevada that creates a huge opportunity for our economy," said U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada.
    The growing drone industry has critics among conservatives and liberals.
    Giving drones greater access to U.S. skies moves the nation closer to "a surveillance society in which our every move is monitored, tracked, recorded and scrutinized by the authorities," the American Civil Liberties Union declared in a report last December.


    Free Wi-Fi Approved at New York City's Airports

    Free Wi-Fi is coming to the New York City metro area's major airports. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on Wednesday approved a plan to offer free access at Newark Liberty International, John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports, to a point: Wi-Fi would be free for 30 minutes, then travelers would have to pay $7.95 for the day.
    The Port Authority, which operates the region's bridges, tunnels and transit hubs and owns the World Trade Center site, said the free Wi-Fi service could be available as early as this fall. The service also will be available at Stewart International Airport, north of New York City.

    It currently costs travelers $4.95 an hour or $7.95 for 24 hours to access the Internet at the airports, which are among the nation's busiest.
    The Port Authority said the free Wi-Fi, a result of revisions to its contract with New York Telecom Partners LLC, a subsidiary of Boingo Wireless Inc., meets "a top desire of travelers" at the region's airports.

    "Customer feedback has consistently expressed a desire for free Wi-Fi access at the agency's airports," it said in a statement.
    Under the modified contract, Boingo will upgrade the wireless technology at the airports, with the free Wi-Fi arriving when those improvements are completed, the Port Authority said. The improvements will mean faster Internet speed and better signal connections in the airports' terminals, it said.

    The airport advocacy group Global Gateway Alliance said the plan is similar to many used at airports around the country, though some airports do offer unlimited Wi-Fi.
    TSA Airport Security Devices Vulnerable to Hackers

    Airport security has become far more advanced in the last decade, but according to the findings of one security researcher, the technology being used to protect travelers is still dangerously vulnerable to hackers.
    On his own time, Billy Rios of Qualys Security said he purchased some of the hardware and software used by the Transportation Security Administration.

    At a talk at this year's Black Hat conference in Las Vegas, he revealed details about several vulnerabilities he was able to find, most notably in the device entrusted to detect trace levels of drugs and explosives.

    The machine, the Morpho Itemiser, is set up so that the technician level password is hardcoded in.
    It's a common practice for a range of devices, one aimed at making it easier for technicians to get in and do maintenance, but it's become taboo among security advocates because it also makes it easier for machines to be hacked.
    Rios said the security weakness allows the machine to be reverse-engineered, so a hacker can log in and wreak havoc.

    "If you're a super user you can do whatever you want," he said.
    The device, Rios said, is set up so that it can be designated to detect certain drugs or explosive devices. Rios said one thing a hacker could have done is remove one or two items from the list, so the removed substances could pass through security.
    One route into the machine, Rios said, might be through the organization's Internet-connected payroll system.

    The manufacturer of the Itemiser, Morpho, sent a representative to Rios' session to defend the product. The company said it will be releasing an upgrade by year's end to patch the identified vulnerability. "Morpho Detection takes the security of its products and its customers very seriously," the statement read.

    But the company said the version TSA uses does not have the vulnerability. Rios said the TSA has used the version he hacked in the past, and he worries the current version might have similar problems.
    His findings, he said, show TSA is not properly vetting the products it uses for security.
    He described himself as "one budget ...and a laptop."
    "What that means is anyone can do this," he said.
    Can Planes Be Hacked via Onboard Wi-Fi?

    Are planes really at risk of cyberattack through the Wi-Fi connections we love to use while sky high? If you believe Ruben Santamarta, a consultant with cybersecurity firm IOActive, the answer is yes. But other security researchers are skeptical.
    Santamarta, who has over 10 years in the security industry and has found dozens of vulnerabilities in major products, is sharing his insights at the Black Hat hacking conference in Las Vegas on Tuesday. If he’s right, it could usher in a new wave of scrutiny over airplane security in an age of cyber terrorism.

    "These devices are wide open,” Santamarta told Reuters. “The goal of this talk is to help change that situation.”

    A Wake Up Call?

    Santamarta also told Reuters how attackers could strike. Essentially, he uncovered the vulnerabilities through reverse engineering the firmware communications equipment installed in airplanes. Through his work, he discovered that hackers could use an aircraft’s onboard Wi-Fi signal or inflight entertainment system to crack open its avionics equipment.

    He explained to Reuters that such an attack could wreak havoc on satellite communications including interfering with the plane’s navigation and safety systems. Although he told Reuters that the attack may be difficult to replicate in real life, he’s nevertheless reaching out to equipment makers, including Harris Corp., EchoStar Corp.'s Hughes Network Systems, Cobham, Iridium Communications and Japan Radio to share his findings.

    Santamarta first voiced these concerns in an April report. The finding also has implications for the maritime industry, military and governments, emergency services, and industrial and media sectors, he said.

    “Insecure and undocumented protocols, backdoors, hard-coded credentials . . . mainly design flaws that allow remote attackers to fully compromise the affected devices using multiple attack vectors,” he wrote at that time. “Ships, aircraft, military personnel, emergency services, media services, and industrial facilities (oil rigs, gas pipelines, water treatment plants, wind turbines, substations, etc.) could all be affected by these vulnerabilities. I hope this research is seen as a wake-up call for both the vendors and users of the current generation of SATCOM (satellite communications) technology.”

    Some Analysts Skeptical

    We caught up with Zeus Kerravala, a principal analyst at ZK Research, to get his reaction to the study. He told us the claim is hard to believe.
    “I’m skeptical,” he said. “It’s not a secure wireless signal so it could happen; there is certainly technology out there that could separate the navigation system from the communications system.”

    We also turned to Ken Westin, a security analyst for security firm Tripwire, for thoughts on the news. He told us an important part is when Santamarta indicates: “In theory, a hacker could use a plane's onboard Wi-Fi signal or inflight entertainment system.” The key, he said, is the “in theory” part.

    “Many of the exploits mentioned require physical access to the devices, which is not practical for it to be a serious exploit,” Westin said. “If I have physical access to a device I can turn it off, that doesn’t mean it is a security vulnerability. That being said, I wouldn’t downplay the vulnerabilities and it will be interesting to see how the manufacturers respond to the discoveries.”