American Airlines adds free inflight messaging on select planes

Dec 16, 2020

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As of Wednesday Dec 16, American Airlines is joining JetBlue in offering free Wi-Fi for passengers traveling on flights with Viasat connectivity. With a notable catch.

JetBlue’s has always been free, with full access to the internet, including high-quality video streaming, web browsing and more. American Airlines’ free service is a bit more limited — in that you’ll only have access to Facebook Messenger, including Messenger Kids.

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Same technology, vastly different “free” experience — you’d be forgiven for feeling a bit underwhelmed.

American Airlines is currently running a “trial” with its free messaging offering over the next four months — if all goes well, hopefully we’ll see it expanded to other services, and perhaps even full web browsing and streaming, too. For now, if you’re hoping to take advantage of this limited connectivity, you’ll need to download Facebook Messenger before your Viasat-equipped flight.

Delta also offers free messaging, but with broader support — WhatsApp and Apple’s Messages app are included, too, excluding photo, video and SMS messaging.

On AA, Facebook Messenger is available on all aircraft with Viasat service, which covers roughly 80% of American Airlines’ narrow-body fleet, including many Airbus A319s and A321s, along with Boeing 737-800s and the carrier’s 737 MAX.

Access is only available on certain aircraft, including many of American’s narrow-body Boeing planes. Screenshot courtesy of AA.

 

Full access comes along with the regular variable fee, depending on your route. Customers can also opt to purchase one of the airline’s monthly subscription plans, at $50 for one device or $60 for two. If you aren’t traveling often, be sure to suspend your service to avoid the carrier’s “hassle-free, automatic renewal.”

American Airlines fliers with T-Mobile devices may also have unlimited texting access on flights with Gogo service, which is also available on Gogo-equipped flights operated by Alaska Airlines and Delta. All T-Mobile customers may also be able to get a free hour of Wi-Fi on select Gogo flights, while subscribers get unlimited Gogo Wi-Fi with certain plans.

As with many other carriers, American also offers streaming from an onboard server, including free access to movies and TV shows from your own laptop, tablet or phone, giving you something to stay entertained on planes that don’t offer seat-back screens.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.

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