My Surprising Email of the Day

A major airline dares say, Look at our new feature! Will have a chance to see for myself very soon.

Going on a trip tomorrow. Of the countless United flights I've taken over the aeons, for many millions of miles all around the world, not one has ever had Wi-Fi coverage. Unlike Alaska, Delta, American, much of US Air, etc. Just now the message above arrives. There is something I would actually be working on, online, during the daytime long-haul flight tomorrow if this actually functions. Will do an update on this post some time tomorrow to register results -- in flight, between noon and 6pm EDT if it is functional, sometime after that if not.

Here is United's chart about how Wi-Fi progress is going. To be clear, most of the time I welcome the opportunity to be dis-connected -- to read a book, to watch a movie, to think -- during a long flight. But there are times, like tomorrow, when it would be a plus. We'll see.

Update from aloft: To my surprise, I am sitting at 34,000 feet in a United A320 that has both Wi-Fi and one of those "EmPower" power outlets. Our modern world.

Update-update: At least on this flight, unfortunately the service doesn't work well enough to be to worth the $13 price. For about one hour of a five-hour flight, the United Wi-Fi worked at high speed. The rest of the time it was off line or so overloaded/troubled that most pages timed out before they loaded. For the record.

Presented by

James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


Photos of New York City, in Motion

A filmmaker animated hundreds of still photographs to create this Big Apple flip book


The Absurd Psychology of Restaurant Menus

Would people eat healthier if celery was called "cool celery?"


This Japanese Inn Has Been Open For 1,300 Years

It's one of the oldest family businesses in the world.


What Happens Inside a Dying Mind?

Science cannot fully explain near-death experiences.

More in Technology

From This Author

Just In