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Satellite radio companies court travelers

If you're flying AirTran this summer, you may find a musical perk waiting in your aisle. Also: Sirius comes to W Hotels. Photo: XM in the sky

Satellite radio carriers hope to make their services the latest must-have travel accessory with new partnerships announced this week.

AirTran Airways, a budget regional airline mostly serving the East Coast, announced Wednesday that it will become the first major airline to offer satellite radio programming on all of its flights under a new partnership with XM Satellite Radio.

Rival programmer Sirius Satellite Radio, meanwhile, will try to grab travelers on the ground with a new partnership with W Hotels, which will stock high-end suites with Sirius receivers.

The AirTran deal is a landmark for XM, which is trying to expand its customer base beyond car-bound commuters. Several years ago the company launched a plan to add its programming to the LiveTV service used by airlines, and late last year it introduced the first portable satellite radio receiver--the Delphi XM MyFi. Budget travel airline Jet Blue said early last year it would add XM channels to its in-flight programming, but it has given no timetable for rolling out the service.

AirTran said it would have XM service available on all of its flights by this summer. The airline already has three XM-ready planes and plans to have the service installed on 20 more by the end of February.

Sirius, meanwhile, has grabbed a chunk of the luxury travel market through the deal with W Hotels, which is offering "Sirius Suites" at its properties in Los Angeles and New York. Guests get rooms outfitted with Xact Sirius receivers, which they can buy from the hotel if they really like the service.

"The W Brand has always been on the forefront of technology--our guests are savvy and like to stay current when they travel," Ross Klein, chief marketing officer for the hotel chain, said in a statement.

XM and competitor Sirius emerged on the market about three years ago with similar technologies and business plans. Both charge a monthly fee to let subscribers access dozens of channels of audio programming beamed directly by satellite to special receivers in cars and home stereo systems.