Photo: Dan Frommer
Aircell, the company behind the Gogo in-flight wi-fi service, has raised another $35 million in financing. That’s more than $500 million in total financing raised so far, to bring you Internet access while you’re in the air.In an interview, Aircell CEO Michael Small declined to offer financial details, but said that the company has made major financial improvements and is on the “path to profitability.”
Small declined to say how many wi-fi sessions that Gogo does per day, but said that the company’s growth curve is accelerating, aided by more airlines installing wi-fi on more of their planes.
A recent promotion sponsored by Google over the holidays helped drive activity, too.
Small says that Gogo did 3 million wi-fi sessions over the 6 weeks from just before Thanksgiving until just after New Year’s. Given that Gogo recently completed its 10 millionth session, that’s roughly 30% of all sessions during the Google promotion. This seems to suggest that people are much more interested in free in-flight wi-fi than paying for the service. That explains another recent promotion, in which Ford is sponsoring free access to Facebook on Gogo.
One sign of how far Aircell has come: It’s now at a point where the airlines themselves are paying to activate each plane, as opposed to the early days when Gogo had to front the cost. Aircell’s airline partners include American, United, Delta, Virgin America, and Air Canada. (They love it because it’s a way to distract passengers and generate revenue at the same time — unlike installing TV sets and on-demand movies, which costs money.)
The company will use the financing to further expand its service. As for a potential IPO, Small says he believes the company is a viable IPO candidate but that it hasn’t made that decision yet.
Besides providing in-flight connectivity on some 1,100 commercial airliners (the market leader with approximately 85% share), Aircell also provides service on some 6,000 private and business jets — a strong, profitable business, Small says.