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Is Web access Lufthansa's hot ticket?

Lufthansa German Airlines sees "no reason whatsoever" to ground its plans for high-speed Web access on planes. Trial runs show the technology is taking off, sources say.

Lufthansa German Airlines sees "no reason whatsoever" to ground plans to offer high-speed Web access to passengers in 2004, an executive close to the company's program said Thursday.

The airline has been testing equipment and services from Connexion by Boeing, the wireless technology subsidiary of the aerospace giant. For the past three months, passengers on 140 Lufthansa flights have been able to use their laptops to access the Internet at broadband speeds.

Between 50 and 80 passengers per flight used the service, according to preliminary results of the trial run. A typical Lufthansa plane can seat 250 passengers. Web traveling passengers were "doing lots of streaming video" and even using the Web to make phone calls, said Terrance Scott, a Connexion by Boeing spokesman.

Lufthansa now must decide whether it will continue on with its plans of installing the service in 80 airplanes that fly from Europe and North America. Expect a decision soon, Scott said. Lufthansa has "seen absolutely nothing during the trial to change their intent or decision," he added.

A Lufthansa representative could not immediately be reached for comment.

Many companies have yet to see profits in providing customers with wireless Internet service. But Connexion by Boeing enjoys an advantage its competitors don't have: a captive, antsy audience. Boredom, Boeing executives believe, can pay. Revenue from such a service could be between $5 billion to $8 billion annually, the company estimates.

Connexion by Boeing's biggest rivals are Airbus and Tenzing Communications, which have also completed tests for in-flight Internet access. Aircraft manufacturer Airbus is a major investor in Tenzing, which develops in-flight messaging services.