Google and Virgin have teamed up to give away WiFi on "every Virgin America flight between November 10, 2009 and January 15, 2010." In Europe, Internet access and mobile calling on planes have taken off, so to speak, while connections and availability are much more spotty in the US.
In addition to Virgin, US carriers that offer or will offer it on some flights are American, United, Delta, Southwest, Alaska and AirTran, which is the only other US carrier to date to have it on all flights. Eventually WiFi will be required in business and first class if not economy.
Virgin America is a "cool" airline and has an advanced in-flight entertainment system ("Red"), in addition to low fares. This free WiFi offer, combined with other amenities, might tip the scales for some passengers. What does Google get?
Branding. Gratitude . . .