Less than a week ago, American Airlines announced that WiFi would be available in 15 of their flights (click here for the article). In their press release they announced how much the service called Gogo would cost and that VOIP services would be blocked. This way they could charge those huge fees for phone calls from their in-flight phones. Just like with all service blockages, they are just a hack away from being unblocked. We see the same cat-and-mouse game being played with the iPhone software updates and the unlocking of so many other smartphones.
The same game is now being played in the sky.
Here’s the abstract of the report where the tool is mentioned.
The workaround, called Phweet, allows users to call friends who are linked via Twitter. Andy Abramson from VoIP Watch says that he recently used Phweet to chat with a friend on an American Airlines flight, and that the conversation was so clear he could hear the flight attendant ordering people to get back to their seats in preparation for landing.
Phweet is a shortURL link to an external directory (for now, only Twitter, though others will be added later), that enables calls between two or more profiles without sharing any additional information between the parties. Using the application to make calls at 27,000 feet is a painless three-step process:
- Go to the Phweet homepage and log on with your Twitter name and password.
- Add the Twitter user name of person you want to connect with, along with a message telling them want to talk. A Twitter update and Phweet URL is sent.
- When your friend clicks on the Phweet URL and accepts, your browser whistles and a Flash widget appears. Click on it to talk.
This is obviously not the last we have heard of this hack or the service… Aircell (the company behind Gogo) claims that the workaround to their blocks can be re-blocked but they also reported that it is up to the airline to enforce the no-call policy during flights.
Having said that, I doubt that a no-call policy can be enforced. For example; someone could activate the service, then the workaround and use their mobile device to talk from the bathroom… Not the same as a public phone booth; but you would not be seen talking into a device, therefore no one would notice whether you are circumventing their service or not.
What are your thoughts?