Summary:

Airline passengers failed to show GoGo has an illegal monopoly on in-flight prices even though the company’s ten-year contracts affect 85% of all wired airplanes.

airplane
photo: Flicker user as737700

A federal judge threw out an anti-trust case brought by airlines passengers who accuse internet provider GoGo of illegally raising the price of in-flight service to rates as high as $17.95.

In a decision issued Wednesday in San Francisco, US District Judge Edward Chen ruled that GoGo, despite supplying 85% of all internet-equipped airplanes in the US, does not have a monopoly. The company’s customers include Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta, US Airways, and Virgin America.

In throwing out the case, Chen accepted GoGo’s argument that it doesn’t have dominant market share because it covers only 16% of all US airplanes, and it’s possible for the remaining planes, which do not offer internet, to sign up with a competing service provider. The internet contracts are sold on airplane-by-airplane basis, and not across entire airlines.

The passengers sued GoGo in October, claiming that competitor Row44 charges only $5 for an entire flight of internet service but that airlines can’t drop GoGo because of ten-year contracts that lock them in. They also argue that GoGo’s internet technology is inferior because it relies on ground-to-air tower transmission rather than the satellite service offered by Row44 and Jet Blue’s ViaSat service.

The decision also agreed to GoGo’s request to acknowledge that a third provider, Panasonic, is entering the market with satellite service on United.

Chen dismissed the case without prejudice, meaning the passengers can try to bring up new facts to show that GoGo does have a monopoly. You can read the decision yourself below.

To understand the science of in-flight internet, see “Why your in-flight WiFi is slow and expensive” by my colleague Stacey Higginbotham.

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