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In-Flight Internet To Be Tested By American Airlines

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DALLAS — American Airlines says customers will be able to test in-flight Internet access on two flights beginning Wednesday, with broader service expected to begin in the following couple weeks.

Facing record high fuel prices, airlines are looking at entertainment and information services as ways to make a few more bucks per passenger.

American's technology partner, Aircell LLC, will charge $9.95 to $12.95 for Internet service, depending on flight length. Aircell and American share the revenue, officials said.

The test will begin on one flight from New York's Kennedy Airport to Los Angeles and one return flight, said Doug Backelin, American's manager of in-flight technology. The test service will be free, he said.

The airline would not say on which flights it would conduct the test.

American is among several companies preparing to offer in-air Internet service.

Aircell is also working with Virgin America, and JetBlue Airways Corp. started testing free e-mail, instant-messaging and some Amazon.com services aboard one of its planes in December.

American will begin charging for Internet service soon on its Boeing 767-200 jets that fly from New York to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Miami.

Passengers will be able to use e-mail and instant messaging and to download video and connect to secure networks on notebook computers or other wireless devices such as smart phones through three wireless access points on the plane, said Dave Bijur, an Aircell executive.

Bijur said Aircell's networks can handle a planeload of Web surfers.

Besides the paid service, passengers will be able to connect free to American's Web site, Frommer's travel guides and limited news headlines, Backelin said.

American won't filter any Internet content. Backelin said attempts to block pornography, for instance, could disrupt legitimate Web sites.

"We already have policies and procedures to deal with inappropriate material that people bring on board, including magazines and DVDs," he said, adding it will be up to flight attendants to enforce online protocol.