The airline carrier and Verizon Communications announced on Tuesday that travelers will be able access the e-mail and instant-messaging service by plugging their laptops into Verizon Airfone handset jacks. The service will cost $15.98 per flight, plus 10 cents per kilobyte for every data packet that's more than 2 kilobytes--the equivalent of two pages of typing.
The move is part of the struggling airline's overall effort to broaden its revenue base. United parent company UAL, which was hurt by a dramatic drop in travel demand after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks,protection last December.
United will be joining the efforts of Lufthansa, British Airways, Japan Airlines and Scandinavian Airlines System, which are testing or have already installed systems using high-speed, two-way e-mail provider.
United's new two-way e-mail service expands its JetConnect service, introduced last December to offer one-way text messaging, instant messaging, and information listings such as news and sports scores. That service costs $5.99 per flight.
"The expansion of our JetConnect offering marks our continued emphasis on enhancing the customer experience through products and services that are useful and affordable," John Tague, a United executive vice president, said in a statement.
JetConnect is available on United's 767 airplanes and has driven a threefold increase in the use of phones on those planes compared with on United planes that do not offer the service, according to the airline.
United expects its two-way e-mail service to be available on all its domestic flights by the end of the year. Verizon is using Tenzing Communications as its e-mail service provider. Passengers will need to use POP3, Microsoft Outlook, or Lotus Notes e-mail clients on their laptops. Additional Internet service providers will be added in the coming months.