Google Dangles Free WiFi for U.S. Flights via Chrome

In an interesting promotion for its Chrome Web browser, Google said Nov. 8 it is offering free WiFi Internet access on U.S. flights via AirTran, Virgin America and Delta.

Google Nov. 8 joined forces with airlines AirTran, Delta and Virgin America to offer free Gogo Inflight Wi-Fi Internet access on every domestic flight from November 20, 2010 through January 2, 2011.

The news marks a change from and expansion of Google's free holiday WiFi offer last year.

Google first offered free WiFi in October 2009, when it contracted with Virgin America to enable free WiFi on every domestic Virgin America flight from Nov. 10, 2009, through Jan. 15, 2010.

Google expanded the popular program a month later, offering free WiFi in 47 airports across the U.S. thanks to the help of Boingo Wireless, Advanced Wireless Group, Airport Marketing Income and others.

This year, Google's Chrome Web browser group got the nod to promote the offer on this Web page, where it conveniently offers users a link to download Chrome.

"Not too long ago, flying home for the holidays meant disconnecting for several hours until you touched down at your destination," said Sundar Pichai, Google'c vice president of product management for Chrome. "Today, WiFi technologies allow us to stay connected even at 30,000 feet above the ground, so we can read the news, browse the Web and send that last-minute planning e-mail before the family reunion."

Line2 technology makes it possible to make phone calls over airplane WiFi. But does that make it OK? Read more here.

What Pichai didn't say-but what is obvious from the download offer on the FreeholidayWiFi Web page-is that Google would love those flyers to use the free WiFi to access Websites from Chrome via laptops or tablet computers.

Chrome has 70 million users for an 8.5 percent market share, compared with almost 60 percent for Microsoft Internet Explorer and 23 percent for Mozilla Firefox.

That's not a bad chunk of market share considering Chrome is just 2.5 years old-but Google wished it had more users for all of its work and fairly aggressive advertising of the application on, The New York Times and other destinations of note.

Moreover, RockMelt just launched to challenge Chrome and other browser makers with a social approach to Web browsing.