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Staying connected while traveling is important for many of us. To business travelers, however, it’s often crucial: In the course of a six-hour transcontinental flight or a 12-hour international trip, information may be missed and deals can slip through the cracks. We may complain about being chained to our electronic devices, but often that connection can make the difference between success and failure. Fortunately in-flight access is becoming more common, although it usually comes at a price.
However, there are travel-rewards cards that offer the opportunity to stay connected either at the airport or on the plane, and the key to free Wi-Fi may already be in your wallet. Here are the options.
Boingo vs. Gogo
For starters, understand the difference between the two services. Boingo is a collection of more than one million Wi-Fi hotspots around the globe, including airports (although the number of airports covered isn’t specified). The mobile plan costs $9.95 per month worldwide, with no data roaming fees; for the same price, you can also purchase unlimited access to hotspots in North and South America. $39 buys you 2,000 minutes of global access each month, and all plans cover up to four devices.
Gogo offers in-flight internet access on selected airlines, and passengers can buy passes in advance or on board. A pre-purchased, one-hour pass costs $7 for use on domestic flights on Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, American, Delta, United or Virgin America; you pay $19 for an all-day pass on the same carriers (again, domestic flights only). For $28, you can buy a Delta Global Day Pass that provides 24 hours of coverage on any Delta Gogo-equipped flight.
Note that some airlines, such as American and United, use multiple Wi-Fi services in addition to Gogo, such as ViaSat or Panasonic, and it’s not always easy to know in advance what service your particular flight will offer. Prices can also vary depending on which service is being used.
Cards That Offer Gogo In-Flight Passes
These are the cards that currently include Gogo passes as a benefit:
- The Business Platinum® Card from American Express: 10 free Gogo inflight internet passes per year ($595 annual fee) (see rates & fees)
- U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card: 12 per year ($400 annual fee)
- UBS Visa Infinite credit card: 12 per year ($495 annual fee)
- City National Bank Crystal Visa Infinite: 12 per year ($400 annual fee)
Southwest doesn’t use Gogo on its planes so Gogo passes won’t work. But the new Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card, with an $195 annual fee, includes reimbursement for up to 365 $8 inflight Wi-Fi purchases on Southwest each year in the form of a statement credit, each of which will get you a full day of Wi-Fi.
Airlines Offering Free Wi-Fi
Like most things in the tech world, the state of in-flight Wi-Fi is fluid. While it’s becoming more commonplace for airlines to offer internet access, finding a free connection can be challenging. Here are the exceptions:
Aer Lingus: Free Wi-Fi in business class
China Eastern: 258 yuan (about $38) of free Wi-Fi; must apply in advance
Emirates: First 20MB of internet are free for everyone. First and business-class passengers get unlimited free internet, as do those with Gold/Platinum status in economy class.
Finnair: Free for one hour for business class, Economy Comfort and Finnair Plus Gold members; free for the whole flight for Finnair Plus Platinum members.
Icelandair: Saga Class passengers and Saga Gold Members get free Wi-Fi for two devices.
JetBlue: Free for all passengers
Philippine Airlines: Free for 30 minutes or up to 15MB
Qatar Airways: Free when booked at qatarairways.com
SAS: Free for passengers in SAS Gold and business, as well as Gold and Diamond members
Singapore Airlines: On A380, A350 and Boeing 777-300ER planes, first class and Suites passengers receive 100 MB and business class passengers get 30MB. Solitaire PPS members will also receive 30MB for themselves and supplementary card holders when traveling in Economy or Premium Economy on the same planes.
You may not want to apply for a credit card for the Wi-Fi benefit alone, but it’s a nice perk to have if you’re a US-based traveler. The Gogo passes cover Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, Delta and United.
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum card, please click here.
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With the Southwest Performance Business card you'll earn 9,000 bonus points each year after your cardmember anniversary. Southwest also offers one of the most lucrative airline perks - the Companion Pass.
- Earn 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
- 9,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary.
- 3 points per $1 spent on Southwest Airlines?® purchases.
- 2 points per $1 spent on social media and search engine advertising, Internet, cable and phone services and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
- 4 Upgraded Boardings per year when available
- Inflight WiFi Credits
- Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® Fee Credit
- Employee cards at no additional cost, earn points on employee spending.