Many air travelers take advantage of time up in the air to sleep or read a good book. Others want – or need – to connect to the Internet from 30,000 feet above, so we’ve put together a guide to in-flight Internet options.
The ability to check email, or surf the web, high in the sky is a godsend for those with work to get done or pressing social matters to attend to.
It’s often difficult to know how to get online, however. Do specific airlines offer Internet access? Or is there some overseer of Wi-Fi connectivity that you should know about? We’ll explain, so that you have the information you need for your next flight.
Before You Book Your Flight
If you feel you absolutely need to have Internet access when you fly, consider the following:
- Not all of the airlines offer Internet on every flight. Make sure you ask the airline carrier you’re thinking about flying with if a particular flight has Wi-Fi capability and what accessories you might need to connect.
- Bandwidth on airplanes is typically limited and you may experience slow access. Planes only transmit limited amounts of data at a given time. When many passengers connect to the Internet at once, connection speeds may slow.
Some airlines charge a premium for high-bandwidth (good for streaming movies and TV shows, which may be an option you want to take advantage of.
- Some airlines and Internet providers block air travelers from accessing certain sites in-flight, or using specific online services. Airlines may ban VoIP services like Skype, so again, check with the carrier.
- You may experience limited or unavailable Wi-Fi at times, no matter what carrier you fly with. Some planes rely on ground-based cell towers that point to the sky for Wi-Fi services. When you fly too low or over water, Wi-Fi may disappear. Sometimes, a plane may rely on a satellite that has to be in range.
- Having good or even fair in-flight Internet options might mean that it will cost you. Passengers usually pay to connect – either by the hour, flight, or day. Some airlines offer free access to their own website to view flight schedules.
- If you want to get online in the air, you’ll need to have your own phone, iPad, laptop, or other device – and know how to configure it on your own. Flight attendants don’t give tech support or advice troubleshooting.
- Airlines have different options for powering devices. Plan to have a fully charged piece of hardware with a battery charger that is compatible with your airplanes power ports.
In-flight Internet Options
So, you’ve booked your flight based many internet-based questions coming back with good answers, according to the considerations mentioned above.
Now, what are the most popular in-flight Internet options (keep in mind, not all will be available on every flight)?
GoGo Internet is the predominant in-flight Internet provider in the United States.
Approximately 2,000 airplanes offered GoGo as of spring 2014, including American Airlines, Air Canada, Aero Mexico, Alaska Airways, AirTran, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, US Airways, Japan Airlines, and Virgin America.
Air travelers can purchase Internet access from GoGo in a number of ways.
When you’re on the plane, connect directly from your Wi-Fi-enabled device using a credit card or debit card, or go to GoGo’s site before you board and pre-purchase time.
Choose from a 1-hour Internet pass on GoGo (which is good for 60 consecutive minutes of use on a GoGo flight), a 1-day pass (24 consecutive hours on 1 airline), a 1-month pass (1 month of access on all GoGo flights on 1 airline), or a 1-month all-airlines pass (1 month of access on all partner carriers).
GoGo Internet uses ground-based cell towers, so Internet with this provider is available only when traveling over land.
This satellite-based provider offers Wi-Fi service on Southwest Airlines, Icelandair, Norwegian Air shuttle, UTair Aviation, Mango Airlines, and Transaero.
Row 44-enabled airlines get Internet connectivity whether the plane travels over land or water.
Airlines using Row 44 as an in-flight Internet option set their own prices for access, so check with individual carriers to see how much you’ll pay.
Southwest Airlines, as an example, has travelers pay a flat fee for an all-day pass on their Row 44-enabled planes.
ViaSat and LiveTV
ViaSat and LiveTV partner with United Airlines and JetBlue Airways to offer Internet to passengers.
These services connect airplanes to Wi-Fi using satellite services, which means that users go online when the plane is over water or land (you still need to be in range of the satellite).
Airlines that use ViaSat and LiveTV charge their own prices for Internet access, so check fees before you purchase your ticket if you’re looking for the best rate.
OnAir is a satellite-based Wi-Fi provider that partners with more than 20 airlines in South America, the Middle East, Europe, Asia, and Africa. The airlines that offer OnAir include Singapore Airlines, Iberia, Etihad, Emirates, British Airways, and Aeroflot.
What does the future hold for in-flight Internet options?
Airlines regularly evaluate the amenities that they offer passengers and they try to stay competitive.
Internet access is one of the most important features that air travelers want on a flight, so carriers are searching for ways to keep loyal customers by providing higher speeds to connect, better coverage, free in-flight entertainment on personal devices, and even more efficient means to power laptops and charge batters.