Social networkers who twitch at just the thought of going without their Facebook, Twitter or Foursquare during the flight home for Christmas have a nice, holiday gift this year, thanks to Google.
The search engine will partner with three major U.S. airlines this holiday season to provide travelers on domestic flights with free wireless Internet access.
Travelers flying on AirTran, Delta and Virgin America flights between Nov. 20, 2010, and Jan. 2, 2011 will have access to the free Wi-Fi service, according to a blog post by Sundar Pichai, vice president of product management at Google.
Normally, the price of Gogo, the most-used, in-flight broadband service, is $11 for a 24-hour access.
Google said it chose to partner with just the three airlines because they have each outfitted their entire domestic fleet with Gogo wireless technology. That eliminated other major U.S. operators, like American Airlines, which has yet to fully adapt the technology.
In launching the free service, Google goes against the thread of airlines nickel-and-diming passengers for everything from blankets to checked bags.
The company is also building on a successful partnership last year with Virgin America in which the company offered free Internet access at 50 airports, in addition to in-flight passengers.
However, Google chose to focus on just the in-flight service this year.
The company estimates that the free Wi-Fi will be available on more than 700 planes, and that about 15 million passengers will use it this holiday season.
A Gogo spokeswoman said this year’s free offering is the company’s largest ever.