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Inflight Wi-Fi is getting cheaper across US airlines

April 07, 2022
3 min read
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 (Photo courtesy of Alaska Airlines)
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.

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Sometimes it's worth a large investment to reap the benefits of a great credit card. That's exactly the case with the Amex Platinum card. In exchange for the annual fee, you'll unlock access to the Amex Membership Rewards program that let you access airline and hotel transfer partners, along with new lifestyle and travel credits. This card is also incredibly rewarding for travel purchases, helping you rack up a ton of Membership Rewards points for your next award trip.

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  • The current welcome offer on this card is quite lucrative. TPG values it at $1,600.
  • This card comes with a long list of benefits, including access to Centurion Lounges, complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott, at least $500 in assorted annual statement credits and so much more. (Enrollment required for select benefits.)
  • The Amex Platinum comes with access to a premium concierge service that can help you with everything from booking hard-to-get reservations to finding destination guides to help you plan out your next getaway.

Cons

  • The high annual fee is only worth it if you’re taking full advantage of the card’s benefits. Seldom travelers may not get enough value to warrant the cost.
  • Outside of the current welcome bonus, you’re only earning higher rewards on specific airfare and hotel purchases, so it’s not a great card for other spending categories.
  • The annual airline fee statement credit can be complicated to take advantage of compared to the broader travel credits offered by competing premium cards.
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Ups are excluded.
  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • Get up to $300 back per calendar year on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card. Enrollment required. Learn more.
  • Breeze through security with CLEAR® lanes available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your membership when you use your Card. Learn more.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees