Netflix Books Virgin America for Free In-Flight Wi-Fi

Deal follows Amazon's partnership with JetBlue for free Internet access to Prime members

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Courtesy of Virgin America

Netflix is now boarding Virgin America flights: The companies have teamed up to offer free Wi-Fi to Netflix subscribers on select aircraft for unlimited video streaming above the clouds.

Starting Tuesday, Netflix customers on board one of Virgin America’s new ViaSat Wi-Fi-equipped planes will be able to access the subscription VOD service, including original series “House of Cards” and “Orange Is The New Black,” to their smartphones, tablets and laptops at no cost through March 2, 2016 (after which Internet fees will apply).

Earlier this year, Amazon.com announced a similar pact with JetBlue, under which Amazon Prime members will have free, unlimited access to high-speed Wi-Fi (normally $9 per hour) to stream video on flights that offer the airline’s Fly-Fi service.

For Netflix, the Virgin America pact is largely a branding initiative. For one thing, “House of Cards” will be emblazoned on the side of Virgin America planes that offer the higher-speed Internet access. In addition, as of next month, the airline will offer “HoC” seasons 1-3 for free through its recently upgraded Red touchscreen seatback in-flight entertainment system. The streamer also is angling to acquire new subs: Virgin America passengers will be prompted to sign up for Netflix’s standard 30-day free trial.

“As Wi-Fi becomes more ubiquitous, it’s going to be increasingly possible for members to enjoy Netflix wherever they want,” said Bill Holmes, Netflix’s global head of business development. “We’re delighted to partner with Virgin America to extend the joy of Netflix to our members at 35,000 feet.”

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Virgin America, which markets itself as a low-cost but upscale carrier, is using the Netflix partnership to tout its Wi-Fi upgrades. Earlier this summer, the airline announced a connectivity partnership with satellite operator ViaSat to provide Internet speeds on par with wireline broadband. The ViaSat service will be installed on 10 new Airbus A320 aircraft, with Virgin America expecting to roll it out to about one aircraft a month through June 2016. The U.S. airline has offered Wi-Fi on every flight since 2009 through Gogo Inflight Internet.

“We hope our guests enjoy the offering and know that even President Frank Underwood can’t get entertainment this good on-board Air Force One,” said Abby Lunardini, Virgin America’s VP of brand marketing and communications.

In a stunt to promote the pact, Michael Kelly, the Emmy-nominated actor who appeared in “House of Cards,” is slated to be on Virgin America’s six-hour Flight 1 from San Francisco International Airport to Washington, D.C.’s Reagan National Airport on Tuesday. Kelly — as Doug Stamper, Underwood’s Machiavellian fixer — will deliver some morally ambiguous political advice over the aircraft’s intercom to unsuspecting travelers before takeoff.