The more time I spend up in the skies, the more I have come to value in-flight WiFi. Although some people, including myself from time to time, like to disconnect onboard and enjoy a few brief hours of email/Facebook/Twitter-less bliss, losing six hours of work and communication time while flying cross-country can be a daunting prospect. More and more, I’ve been researching prospective flights to find out for sure whether or not I will have WiFi in the sky so I can maximize those hours spent on the move. The answer to that question has been affecting my purchasing behavior, as I suspect it does for a lot of other flyers.
Although some airlines like Delta and Virgin America have been leaders in the onboard WiFi movement, others – I’m talking to you, United! – have been complete laggards. Luckily it looks like that’s changing now and that most airlines realize in-flight WiFi is here to stay and is a profit driver, so the days of internet-less flight are drawing to a close.
This list focuses primarily on US carriers, but stay tuned for an update on international carriers.
American Airlines’ WiFi in the Sky domestic service offers Gogo-powered connections on all 767-200 and 737 aircraft as well as most MD80 and 757 aircraft. The airline announced plans to enhance its fleet with new narrow-body A319, A321 and 737-800 aircraft outfitted with inflight WiFi in early 2012, and it pledges to continue expanding the service to its existing narrow-body aircraft in the future.
Prices vary depending on flight length and start as low as $2 for a 30-minute Mobile Time Pass and cap at $49.95 with the Gogo Unlimited Pass for all devices.
There are also a few current deals, including the Spring Break 2-Pack, where jetsetting spring breakers can score 2 Gogo All-Day Passes for just $20, good for use from March 16 through April 1 (sale ends March 25); the American Airlines All-Day Pass, which costs $14 plus tax; and the American Airlines Traveler Pass, with a monthly subscription price of $39.95.
The airline’s newest plane, the 777-300ER, is the first for the airline to offer international WiFi. From January 31 through March 27, the service is free, and after that prices range from $5 to $19.
Full pricing details and all packages are available here.
Flyers who want to know ahead of time if their flight will have WiFi can take advantage of this handy website “widget,” which tells passengers if their flights have WiFi within 24 hours of departure. Or passengers can check their boarding passes for the WiFi symbol.
Delta Air Lines
Delta’s entire domestic flight boasts Gogo-powered inflight WiFi, and its pricing plan is more simplified than American’s. Instead of multiple prices for devices and flight lengths, Delta offers just three passes. A 24-Hour Pass costs $14 and is the best bang for the buck when flying more than three hours during a 24-hour period. Then there’s the Traveler Pass, offering a monthly subscription for $39.95. Finally, the Annual Travel Pass gifts the frequent flyer 365 days of WiFi for $469.95. Passengers can confirm WiFi availability here.
The airline announced last summer that it would begin offering inflight WiFi on international routes early 2013, though it is still waiting for its first international aircraft outfitted with WiFi to come into service as of now and the airline has not released any specific dates. The airline’s international long-haul fleet is comprised of over 150 aircraft, including Boeing 747, 757, 767 and 777, and Airbus 330 aircraft.
Previously lagging behind competitors in the race to connect passengers inflight, United unveiled onboard satellite-based WiFi on the first of its international widebody aircraft earlier this year, earning a nod as the first U.S.-based international carrier to offer Internet connection during long hauls overseas. Panasonic Avionics Corporation’s Ku-band satellite technology powers the airline’s Boeing 747 as well as two Airbus 319 aircraft serving domestic routes.
Gogo WiFi is offered on three-cabin p.s. Premium Service transcontinental aircraft flying between New York (JFK) and both Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO). The airline plans to equip about 25 new aircraft with WiFi every month. By the end of the year, 300 mainline aircraft (about 40% of the fleet) should have satellite-based WiFi installed. Priced on two speeds, passengers are currently shelling out between $3.99 and $19.99 to connect.
United offers only single-flight access, and prices depend on flight length and device type. Additional options will be made available in the future. Passengers can confirm WiFi availability here.
All Airbus A321 aircraft are equipped with Gogo WiFi, and the service will expand to the Embraer 190, 170 and 175 aircraft come fall 2013. Full internet access starts out at $4.95 and varies depending on flight length and device. The Gogo All-Day Pass is also offered for $14, as is Gogo Unlimited for $49.95 per month.
According to Gogo’s website, Alaska offers Gogo on nearly every flight within the contiguous 48 United states as well as to/from and within Alaska. Currently, all the airline’s B737-400 (except for nine), B737-700, B737-800 and B737-900 aircraft are equipped for Gogo service with prices ranging from $1.95-$39.95. Additional information about staying connected while on Alaska Airlines can be found at alaskaair.com/wifi
JetBlue wants passengers to “take [their] business above the ground,” and it’s finally poised to offer inflight WiFi this year. Having partnered with ViaSat, the airline claims to be creating the industry’s best broadband connectivity solution using satellite technology, which was introduced in 2011. The next phase includes FAA certification and installation, and the first aircraft equipped with WiFi is expected to fly in early 2013, starting with the airline’s A320’s and then its Embraer ERJ190’s – though there has been no news lately.
Southwest offers satellite-enabled WiFi inflight on 400 of its 705 planes and plans to expand to the airline’s entire fleet, though this implementation has taken 3 years so far and is proceeding at a slow pace. The cost is just $8 per device per flight. The handy WiFi Finder on the airline website lets passengers confirm WiFi availability within 24 hours of departure. Gogo is also available on all AirTran flights departing from US destinations.
“At every seat, on every flight,” Virgin America passengers can get their Gogo on using cell phones and laptops. Prices range from $2 for a 30-minute session on a cell phone to $39.95 for a monthly Traveler pass. Mexico coverage extends only 100 miles across the border.
Meanwhile, Frontier offers Gogo-powered internet aboard its Embraer ERJ190′s.