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How to watch the Super Bowl while in flight

By Scott Mayerowitz
Associated Press / January 31, 2011

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NEW YORK — Flying during the Super Bowl no longer means waiting for the pilot to announce the latest score.

But if you are hoping to watch the Packers-Steelers matchup at 30,000 feet next Sunday, plan carefully: Not every airline with TV will be showing the game and not all digital alternatives work once regular-season football ends.

JetBlue Airways pioneered satellite TV on commercial airplanes in 2000 and four other US airlines now have it. On airlines without TV, a Wi-Fi Internet connection is the next best thing because it allows you to watch shows live on laptops, iPhones, and other devices.

“Today, pilots are more likely to walk into the cabin and see if they can find somebody who has the score,’’ says Rick Seaney, CEO of airfare search site FareCompare.com.

Here’s everything you need to know if you’re flying next Sunday and don’t want to miss Super Bowl XLV:

■JetBlue, Frontier, and most Continental planes will carry the game on DirecTV. JetBlue’s service is free; Continental and Frontier charge $6.

■Virgin America and Delta Air Lines have free TV. But they carry the DISH Network, which, on planes, doesn’t have Fox, the channel broadcasting the game.

■On planes with Wi-Fi, there’s only one option: Slingbox, a $180 piece of hardware that connects to a home TV and allows users to watch programming on laptops, iPads, and some smartphones.

Fliers can watch regular-season football via Wi-Fi using DirecTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket To-Go, which streams games to laptops and some smartphones. But the playoffs and the Super Bowl aren’t part of the package.

Airlines that have Wi-Fi include American, Delta, Southwest, United, US Airways, and Virgin. Prices range from $4.95 to $12.95, depending on the length of the flight. Only Delta, US Airways, United, and Virgin tell passengers whether Wi-Fi is available on specific flights before booking.

A couple of caveats about Wi-Fi: Connections on planes are slow, and the service can’t be used when the plane is flying below 10,000 feet.

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