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How to save on inflight Wi-Fi for your next trip

Nov. 23, 2021
9 min read
Woman using laptop computer on airplane
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Travelers tend to fall into one of two camps when it comes to inflight Wi-Fi.

There are the road warriors who hope to never fly without it, so accustomed are they to using the din of an airplane’s engines as the perfect white noise backdrop for logging on and crushing work.

Then there are the travelers who look forward to the cocoon of the fuselage to shield them from the need to be constantly connected to those on the ground. They use flights as a moment to truly disconnect, get lost in a movie they’d never make time for on the ground or just otherwise fall off the radar, however briefly.

We applaud those in the latter group — while falling squarely into the camp that believes free inflight Wi-Fi is the ultimate travel upgrade. And while there's lots of talk on the topic, airlines offering truly free Wi-Fi remain a rarity.

If you’re wondering how to save on inflight Wi-Fi on your next trip, we have a few ideas.

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Fly airlines that offer free Wi-Fi

Just a few airlines have made a name for themselves by offering free Wi-Fi (not to mention free snacks). It kind of makes you wonder why all airlines don’t offer free Wi-Fi just to even the playing field.

JetBlue is the only U.S. airline offering free high-speed Wi-Fi, Fly-Fi, which is available on every flight from every seat. The airline provides standard coverage over the contiguous U.S. and expanded coverage over much of the Caribbean and Central America, as well as on its new routes to and from London.

Just know that it might not always work as well as the Wi-Fi you find on the ground. Weather and other variables can impact service availability. I’ve flown JetBlue from Florida to the Caribbean several times and have had some spottiness in coverage on those routes.

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La Compagnie, which operates business-class-only flights between Newark International Airport and Paris Orly, also sweetens what’s already a sweet deal — there are just 76 seats onboard, all of which recline to fully flat — with free, unlimited Wi-Fi.

Among the other airlines offering truly free Wi-Fi (no upgrade of fare class required) are Air New Zealand (domestic only, on select flights), Qatar Airways (offering free Super Wifi through Jan. 2, 2021) and Qantas (domestic flights only). Delta will purportedly also be adding free inflight Wi-Fi in the coming years, too.

Sometimes free inflight messaging (for use with apps like iMessage, Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger) can make you feel connected enough that you can convince yourself you don't need to shell out for full internet access. Especially on short trips, it can be just the fix you're looking for. Among the airlines offering it are Southwest, Alaska, Aeromexico, TAP Portugal, Delta, Air France, Saudia and Nok Air.

Upgrade your fare class or use your elite status for savings

If you do the math, it will rarely be worth it to upgrade your fare class using money or miles merely for the added perk of free WI-Fi, with day passes surely available for less than an upgrade will run you. But it's good to know there are several airlines offering free Wi-Fi to passengers flying in business or premium classes or with elite membership status. Among them:

  • Emirates: Free for platinum Skywards members in any class and all passengers flying first class.
  • Iceland Air: Free Wi-Fi for Saga Gold members as well as those flying in Premium, Saga Premium Flex and Economy Flex.
  • Southwest Airlines: Free inflight Wi-Fi for A-list Preferred members.
  • Singapore Airlines: Free for PPS club members and suites and first-class passengers, with limited free Wi-Fi in business class.
  • Finnair: Business class and Finnair Plus Gold members get one hour free Wi-Fi on long-haul flights.
  • Swiss Air: 50MB connectivity voucher for passengers in first class.
  • Lufthansa: Free Wi-Fi voucher for passengers in first class.
  • Cathay Pacific: Free Wi-Fi for passengers in first class on Boeing 777 and Airbus A330 aircraft.
  • Turkish Airlines: Free Wi-Fi for business class passengers who are Miles & Smiles Elite or Elite Plus cardholders, 1GB free for other business class passengers, limited MBs of usage for Miles & Smiles Elite, Elite Plus, Classic and Classic plus in other fare classes.

Know your credit card perks

Many travel reward cards come with offers that can hook you up with free or discounted inflight Wi-Fi. So before you step into the plane, it's worth a quick call to your credit card provider (or often you can just look up the perks online) to determine which inflight Wi-Fi discounts and freebies the credit cards in your wallet might already offer.

Gogo inflight Wi-Fi is one that pops up a lot as an option on airlines. Here are three credit cards that wrap in Gogo inflight internet passes, among their other annual perks:

Another good place to turn when it comes to finding credit card discounts for inflight Wi-Fi is your cobranded airlines reward cards.

The information for the City National Bank Crystal Visa Infinite, U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card, and USB Visa Infinite Credit Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card, for example, will run you $199 for the annual fee while reimbursing you for up to $365 in $8 inflight Wi-Fi purchases on Southwest every year (on top of the other perks of the credit card). This essentially means you can get free Wi-Fi on Southwest every single day of the year since the airline charges $8 for an all-day pass. All you have to do is use your card to buy the passes on your flights and your account will be automatically re-credited for the charge.

For passengers on American Airlines, consider the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard which, for $99 a year, gets you up to $25 in statement credits toward Wi-Fi purchases when you're flying AA.

While it's not open to new applications, if you hold the AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite Mastercard it comes with perks that include $50 in statement credits per year.

Any Wi-Fi purchases you make using the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® get you 25% back in statement credits.

The information for the AAdvantage Aviator Red, the AAdvantage Aviator Silver and CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum cards has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

The United Explorer Card and United Business Card offer 25% back in statement credits for Wi-Fi purchases. And Alaska Airlines credit cards give 20% back in statement credits for Wi-Fi purchases, too.

There are many other cobranded credit cards out there with these sorts of perks, so it’s worth looking into those online or calling your credit card provider to see what sort of inflight Wi-Fi discounts or flight passes you might already have.

Buy Wi-Fi passes in advance

Another way to save big on Gogo inflight Wi-Fi passes is to buy them in advance. After all, Gogo has a steep advantage once it has you on the plane, desperately seeking Wi-Fi, where onboard prices can easily run you $30 for a flight (or more for an all-day pass).

Prepurchasing one-hour passes isn't really going to save you much, if anything. But if you're on the market for an all-day flight pass, you can start planning on saving some cash by purchasing it before your flight.

For $29, you can purchase an all-day pass on Gogo's website that can be used for Wi-Fi access aboard Alaska, Air Canada, Delta or United.

These day passes are good for up to 24 hours of connectivity -- but only in the U.S., Mexico and Canada. Also, you can only use a single pass on a single airline (say you're on Delta and connecting to a United flight later, the same day pass will only work on the airline you first used it on).

Delta passengers can get a Global Day Pass for $28. This one works on any Gogo-equipped flight, even those flying outside the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

The full-day passes are definitely worth considering if you've got a few flights over the course of the same day on a single airline, since you might very well end up paying more if you opt to buy separate passes on each flight.

It's worth taking a look at your longer-term travel plans, too, to see if a monthly pass might be a better option than individual flight passes.

American Airlines, for example, has monthly passes you can purchase through its website that might make a lot of sense if you plan to be flying American a lot over the course of a month. They price out at $49.95 for a monthly plan (or $59.95 for two devices).

United's monthly passes are available on its website starting at $49.95 per month, while Delta charges $49.95 ($69.95 for global) for monthly subscriptions.

Consider if you really need Wi-Fi at all

If being productive at work while in flight is your prerogative, you may want to consider if you even need Wi-Fi at all. After all, who couldn't kill hours just attempting to get to inbox zero -- or even just answering emails in Outlook?

It’s tempting to fork out for inflight Wi-Fi whenever it’s available, but – especially on a short hop – you might want to ask yourself if it's really worth the extra expense.

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.