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I won’t lie, I’m a huge fan of in-flight WiFi. In fact, as a Delta flyer I’ve grown accustomed to having it on my flights and I had a minor panic attack when two flights last week (Atlanta to Ashveville, NC and Asheville to LaGuardia) didn’t have WiFi. Luckily they were short flights, but it still made me realize how reliant I’ve become.
As someone who travels pretty much every week and who makes a living on the internet, being disconnected means being less effective overall in my job. I know many people are not on the same page as me, because the expansion of in-flight WiFi has also meant the expansion of the office into the sky. No longer can you use the excuse you’ll be traveling to escape the duties of endless emails and client needs. Whether you like it or not, in-flight WiFi is continuing to expand and even though I’ve tried my best to cover all of the latest developments on domestic and international airlines, today Routehappy released their new US & International In-Flight WiFi Report, which they claim to be “the most comprehensive and up-to-date analysis of in-flight connectivity ever.”
The major areas covered in the survey were the propensity of WiFi currently available – and what to expect in the near future as a number of airlines including United, American and JetBlue are rolling out more Internet-friendly flights.
WiFi is now available on 38% of domestic flights and will soon be rolling out on 9% more. The total domestic flight time where WiFi is available is 44% – meaning that the longer your flight, the more likely you are going to able to get online.
Delta and Virgin America were the initial leaders in the onboard WiFi movement, with Southwest and US Airways are catching up quickly. While Delta still has the firm lead with 3,443 daily flights with WiFi, Southwest now has 2,320 daily flights and US Airways has 1,293. American and United have been slow runners but are both in the process of rolling out new fleets of planes fitted with WiFi. While they currently only have 517 and 494 flights with WiFi respectively, expect that to change soon. Smaller airlines such as Alaska, JetBlue and Frontier are surprisingly lagging behind, however JetBlue will start trials this summer.
Meanwhile, Virgin America and AirTran have 100% of their domestic flights equipped with WiFi.
Sadly, WiFi is useless if your laptop or tablet battery is dead, and if you neglect to charge it in the airport a number of flights are now offering on-board charging in the form of AC power, USB ports or both. Delta has 580 US domestic flights with both WiFi and in-seat power, 515 out of 541 American flights with WiFi have power, and 173 Virgin flights do. Sadly, many of American’s planes are only equipped with AC adapters (think cigarette lighter) so it won’t do you too much good if you only have a normal plug or USB.
Most Connected Routes
While in general you are more likely to get WiFi on longer flights, those between LAX and SFO are well connected due to the influence of Virgin America and Southwest, with 31 flights a day and 66% of the total on that route being enabled. LAX to JFK and Atlanta to Orlando – thanks to Delta – come in close second and third.
Still lagging behind domestic journeys due to the complexities of national airspace restrictions, satellite coverage gaps, and geographical limitations, 6.5% of international flights from the US now have full-flight connectivity, which adds up to 279 flights a day, but only 38 have WiFi the entire flight. There are additional flights with partial connectivity, such as to North America outside the US that only have partial connectivity, but they weren’t included in the report. On a further 214 flights, WiFi is set to roll out on the entire fleet of aircraft used but is not yet available on every plane.
With so many variables as to whether you will be able to get online or not flying internationally, Lufthansa is your best bet to increase your odds of getting connected with 12 flights a day to the US having the certainty of WiFi. Nearly the entire Lufthansa fleet is equipped with Lufthansa FlyNet, the first onboard broadband Internet access. The only exceptions are the A380 and Boeing 747-8 aircraft, which are gradually being retrofitted with the technology. The major downside of Lufthansa’s coverage is the cost, and for a full breakdown of prices read our previous In-Flight WiFi post.
In fact, Lufthansa’s service to Munich and Frankfurt add up to 30% of the international WiFi heading out of the US, with shorter flights to Montreal and Toronto adding up to another 25%.
Following hot on the heels is American Airlines and that will only increase when the Boeing 777-ER are delivered and FAA certifications are received for other aircrafts. Air Canada, Singapore and Etihad (which plans to equip its entire fleet with WiFi by 2014) rank 3 through 5.
Expect United, American and Delta to soon offer more overseas WiFi-enabled flights pending either installation on their fleets or FAA approval, while Lufthansa is adding it to their Airbus 380 and Boeing 747-8 later this year.
The analysis above is based on US domestic and international flight schedules for Sunday, July 7, 2013, via Routehappy’s custom database Flightpad, for more information visit Routehappy.com.