30 Apr A Guide to Wi-Fi on Major US Airlines
Nowadays, it’s almost unbearable for us to be without an internet connection for more than a couple of minutes so when you have a couple of hours or more to kill on a flight, it’s practically unthinkable that you might be without Wi-Fi. We took a look at the Top 9 US airlines to see what their inflight Wi-Fi offerings are.
There have been some major gains in global inflight Wi-Fi offerings over the last year with most major airlines beginning their Wi-Fi rollouts or those who already had a good Wifi offering have been upgrading their systems. In the case of US airlines, most of them fall into the latter category. Having said that, three of the nine largest US airlines don’t offer any inflight Wi-Fi options at all. If you’re relying on being connected during your flight, you might do well to skip flying with Frontier, Hawaiian or Spirit airlines as they don’t currently offer Wi-Fi as a service. As for the others, the connection speed, availability and price varies.
JetBlue comes out on top in the inflight Wi-Fi stakes. They are the only airline to offer high speed Wi-Fi completely free of charge. Their inflight service, Fly-Fi provides real, broadband internet and is available at every seat on every plane. Their inflight internet allows you to upload, download, stream, email and pretty much enjoy the same things you would with your internet access on the ground.
Southwest doesn’t offer free internet, but it does have an affordable option. Internet access will cost you $8 per device on a Wi-Fi enabled aircraft. However, not all of their aircraft offer Wi-Fi. To find out if your flight does, within 24 hours of departure you can check availability on their website with your flight confirmation number. The Wi-Fi access is limited to email, social networks and VPN. You won’t have access to high bandwidth apps and websites such as Netflix and HBO Go.
Wi-Fi is available on almost all their flights via Gogo. Ideally you should pre-purchase a pass to Gogo before you board your flight. $16 will buy you 24 hours of continuous inflight internet access even if you change Delta flights during that period. You can also buy a monthly or annual pass if you fly frequently. Delta is in the process of upgrading it’s Wi-Fi offering with 2KU Gogo which will bring at-home internet speeds to your inflight experience. It’s already available on many of its flights and the roll out is scheduled to include more in the very near future.
Alaska airlines are also in the process of upgrading their inflight Wi-Fi. They’re launching a new satellite based service from Gogo which will improve internet speeds and service. As of now, 1 out of 241 aircraft have satellite installed, but by 2020 they aim to roll this out to all their aircraft. In the meantime, you can still get internet access on their flights via Gogo or Viasat (previously offered by Virgin America which has recently been absorbed into Alaska Airlines). You are however limited to email, social media etc. Depending on the aircraft you’re travelling on, you will either need to buy a Gogo pass or a Viasat pass.
United Airlines offer Wi-Fi on mainline aircraft and two cabin regional aircraft. A subscription is available starting at $49. This allows you to use internet on those flights that offer Wi-Fi. You can send emails, browse the web and catch up on social media but streaming on services such as Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go and YouTube is not supported. Subscriptions must be purchased before the flight. If you want to purchase Wi-Fi access on the aircraft, pricing varies from flight to flight.
Wi-Fi is available on most of their flights for as little as $10. A monthly subscription pass is available for $49.95. This pass is valid on Gogo and Viasat Wi-Fi equipped flights. American airlines also has some flights offering service via Panasonic inflight Wi-Fi but these are not covered by the American Airlines Wi-Fi plan. It wasn’t clear from the information American Airlines offers, how much Panasonic inflight Wi-Fi costs.
It’s also worth noting that with a T-Mobile account, you can enjoy free texting and one hour of free inflight Wi-Fi on all Gogo enabled flights
All of the above information was taken from the airlines themselves and whilst a few of them seem to be in the process of upgrading or changing their Wi-Fi offerings, the information is correct at the time of writing. The airlines using Gogo recommend that you pre-purchase your pass or subscription but none of them stated how much the cost would be if you were to purchase it inflight. We suspect however that it would be a significantly higher cost. If you travel a lot, you’re probably better off purchasing one of the subscription options on the airlines you most use.