July 31, 2011, 12:00 PM

Shopping for stuff high in the sky via Zappos.com and SkyMall.com

Zappos.com has tested a system from Aircell (which is changing its name to Gogo) that lets travelers shop online while in-flight on Delta Air Lines. SkyMall.com, meantime, is already offering the ability to shop online while traveling on Delta and several other airlines, using systems from Row 44 as well as Aircell.

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Shoe lovers can only bring so many pairs onboard an airplane, but during a month-long promotion in June they could shop for the thousands offered on Zappos.com while flying Delta Air Lines planes equipped with Wi-Fi Internet access.

The promotion was organized by Aircell, a company that provides in-flight Wi-Fi access for Delta and other airlines under the Gogo Inflight Internet brand. Travelers on Wi-Fi-enabled Delta flights saw a Zappos promotion banner at the Gogo access page, where consumers normally enter their payment data to buy in-flight web access. From there, they could visit the Zappos.com e-retail site and shop its full product catalog. At the checkout stage, consumers could enter their destination address for shipment. Zappos.com is a subsidiary of Amazon.com Inc., the leading online retailer by sales.

Although Zappos did not immediately comment on the promotion, similar in-flight Internet access deals are becoming the norm at SkyMall Inc.'s SkyMall.com, the online version of the gifts and lifestyle products catalog found in most of the seat-back pockets on commercial airlines. SkyMall has a multi-year deal with Aircell to offer Gogo Internet access on most if not all flights operated by Delta, AirTran Airways, US Airways and Alaska Airlines, and is testing the program with United Air Lines, says Casey Christ, SkyMall's vice president of airline marketing. SkyMall is also offering similar deals on Southwest Airlines through Row 44, a company that also offers Wi-Fi Internet access on Lufthansa and other airlines.

SkyMall is running promotional messages in its ubiquitous paper catalog to promote shopping on SkyMall.com. "People have 10 or 15 minutes at the beginning of the flight before they can turn on their iPad or smartphone, so we tell them in the catalog 'In 10 minutes you'll be able to buy this product from us on SkyMall.com,'" Christ says. He declines to say how many in-flight consumers have shopped on SkyMall.com while in-flight, but notes that 88% of SkyMall's customers shop on the site. "We're very excited about in-flight shopping," he says.

Fees to travelers for in-flight web access normally ranges from $4.95 to $12.95 per flight, depending on the length of the flight, according to Aircell. An online retailer can run a promotion to cover all or part of that cost. In SkyMall's case, it generally covers the cost of directly accessing SkyMall.com; if a traveler makes a purchase during a promotion the retailer is running with Gogo, SkyMall will cover all or part of the cost of using Gogo to visit other Internet sites, Christ says.


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