Today I flew on an Alaska Airline's nonstop flight from DC to LA1. It was a 5 hour flight so I decided to give the inflight wireless service, Gogo, a try.
The setup was pretty simple. I just opened up my Wi-Fi setting on my iPad and selected "gogoinflight". The resulting webpage walked me through downloading Gogo's app from the App Store and I was quickly up and running2. Gogo lets you select from quite a few TV shows and movies for free which was a pleasant surprise. What's glaring though is the big disclaimer that it does not support Netflix or any other streaming video service. That's probably not a surprise, but I do look forward to the day I can use all the services I'm already paying for as well.
Gogo does not support live video or streaming services such as Netflix and HBO GO.
I quickly found a movie that interested me and selected it. It started to play instantly, no buffering required. Excellent! "OK", I thought. "Let me also connect my iPhone to the wifi and see if I can keep connected via email as well." And that is when the problems started. My iPhone seemed to connect to the wifi signal, but upon trying to connect to the server via Safari, it stalled and wouldn't connect. I tried 3 or 4 times but my iPhone stubbornly refused to connect at all. Then, about 18mins into the movie, I got the dreaded loading indicator. All playback stopped and the movie seemed stuck. I quit the Gogo app and restarted it - nothing. I waited about 10mins and retried - nothing.
It was at this point I asked the Flight Attendant to check on the service for me. She told me it seemed like half the people could connect, but half couldn't and that was about all the help she could provide. It did work, but I guess it's one of those miracles of technology that no one can really explain - why one person's device can connect, but another's can't.
I decided to try 1 more thing, a complete restart of my iPad. And, after turning it off and back on again, Gogo worked. I have no idea what that did to fix it…magic, but it worked for the rest of the trip3. Overall, I'd say the Gogo service is quite nice as long as you can troubleshoot a few possible hiccups. I guess streaming a movie at 20,000 feet still isn't perfect, but Gogo made it much easier.