The most intriguing aspect of today’s announcement by Aircell that it had raised $35M and was preparing for an IPO, was buried deep in the press release, which indicated that “in 2011, Aircell expects to increase its base of installed aircraft by an average of three per day in the airline market”. At the end of 2010, Aircell was on nearly 1100 planes, and we know about some of the planned installations for 2011, including 223 of Delta’s regional jets and the possibility that United will eventually decide which way to jump.
Nevertheless, I have a hard time getting to 1100 more installations in 2011, given Aircell’s existing dominance of the US market and the fact that Canadian network deployment is not expected until the end of the year. However, with recent personnel changes at Southwest and the fact that Southwest’s purchase of AirTran will mean it has more aircraft equipped with Aircell than with Row44, it is intriguing to speculate about whether Southwest might once again be up for grabs, just as Alaska switched a year ago. Certainly that seems rather more plausible than the idea that Southwest will now decide to buy Row44, and would fit with my prediction back in March 2010 that Southwest will never complete its fleetwide deployment with Row44.