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Inflight Wi-Fi is getting cheaper across US airlines

April 07, 2022
3 min read
Alaska Airlines first class
Inflight Wi-Fi is getting cheaper across US airlines
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Staying connected when flying is getting more affordable and reliable.

When the major U.S. airlines first started installing internet access on their jets back in 2008, a single flight pass could cost as much as $40 (or more) depending on the route, time of day and other factors. The carriers also sold monthly subscriptions for frequent flyers that offered unlimited internet access for a fixed rate.

Over time, the airlines have evolved their Wi-Fi pricing models, and in recent months, they've lowered the rate to one that’s actually compelling for leisure flyers to connect.

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The latest move comes from Alaska Airlines, which will now offer satellite-based Wi-Fi access for a flat rate of $8 per flight. The cost will no longer vary by distance and other factors.

Nearly 80% of the Alaska fleet is now outfitted with high-speed satellite Wi-Fi provided by Intelsat. (You can find Alaska's satellite internet on all Airbus aircraft and most Boeing 737-900s, as well as select 737-800 and 737 MAX 9.)

The system provides speeds that support streaming across all popular services, such as Netflix, Hulu and YouTube. Alaska will continue to charge a variable price for internet access on its jets that haven’t yet been equipped with satellite Wi-Fi.

For those closely following the developments in inflight connectivity, the new $8 price point may ring a bell.

It’s the same price that United now charges for Wi-Fi access on all domestic flights. Earlier this year, the Chicago-based carrier simplified the pricing structure with just two price points for all single-use day passes — $8 for MileagePlus members and $10 for those not enrolled in the airline’s loyalty program.

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Southwest also charges $8 for internet access. When it introduced onboard internet access in 2009, the carrier had an introductory flat rate of $5, which was raised to $8 shortly thereafter.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

While competitive pressure is seemingly the reason for Alaska lowering its price, it’s fair to wonder if that the same pressure might eventually make Wi-Fi access free at some point in the future.

JetBlue Airways is famous for its free fleet-wide Wi-Fi, while Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian plans to make connectivity free as well.

In early 2019, Bastian laid out a grand plan for modernizing Delta’s inflight connectivity, which includes faster Wi-Fi that would eventually become free.

Related: Putting Delta’s new blazing-fast inflight Wi-Fi to the test

Since then, the Atlanta-based carrier trialed free Wi-Fi on a handful of flights, but it’s not yet ready to enable complimentary access network-wide. In the meantime, Delta’s new, faster internet connection (which is now available for more than 50% of domestic enplanements) is available for $5 per device.

Interestingly, internet access on American Airlines continues to be quite expensive. On a recent transcontinental flight from New York to Los Angeles, a single-use flight pass was going for $29.

Before the pandemic, there were reports that American was considering offering free onboard internet access, but there hasn’t been any official confirmation from the carrier.

Featured image by ALASKA AIRLINES
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