Like many writers, I'm a procrastinator. So while I loathe air travel, I also relish those few hours of quiet aloft, where no editor can reach me. Which is why I was chagrined to learn—from my editor—that Verizon now offers a live email service called JetConnect on United and Continental. "Unlimited email from takeoff to landing for just $15.98!" It was admirable marketing. I grudgingly agreed to sample the service on a long United traverse.
Lucky for me, JetConnect doesn't really work. First of all, it's a dial-up service, claiming speeds of up to 56k per second (though I only got up to 20k). At that speed, downloading the special software required just to get me to the home page took close to 45 minutes. Then, the service took another 20 minutes to "validate" each email account that I wanted to use—ultimately failing to validate my work and university accounts.
It did connect to my Hotmail account, but was again slow to boot up. Soldiering on, I tried sending a short message to my editor—and learned JetConnect isn't really live. Messages are cached, then sent in bulk. It took 12 minutes before the page refreshed to my inbox—with no receipt for my message. By then we were descending into Chicago, so I didn't have time to try again. Three days later, my editor still hadn't received his email. So, hey, I tried. I hear that Boeing promises a high-speed Internet service for planes later this year. But for now, I can watch the movie in peace.
A version of this article appeared in the March 2004 issue of Fast Company magazine.