It wasn’t all that long ago (2000 or 2006, depending how you measure) that being able to access the internet on an airplane was a pie-in-the-sky idea.
Once the technology became generally available and airlines began equipping planes with Wi-Fi service, passengers soon found they couldn’t bear to fly without it. Inmarsat’s latest Inflight Connectivity Survey found that more than half (55%) of all airline passengers considered inflight Wi-Fi to be a crucial amenity. And almost as many (53%) said they’d be willing to forgo an alcoholic drink, tea, coffee, and other in-flight amenities in exchange for Wi-Fi access.
As Delta Air Lines takes its first steps towards offering free Wi-Fi with a two-week pilot test that began May 13, the Atlanta-based carrier could ratchet up pressure for other airlines to make the service more widespread.
Staying connected in the sky
While free messaging is available on Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines and on a variety of international airlines, most domestic airlines levy a charge for accessing the internet for email, streaming and other purposes. And the cost to access that Wi-Fi varies — sometimes widely.
Southwest Airlines charges $8 a day for its Wi-Fi service, which prohibits access to Netflix and other high-bandwidth applications. Gogo, which provides inflight Wi-Fi to airlines such as United, Delta, Alaska and Air Canada, sells a variety of buy-before-you-fly passes. Order ahead and you’ll pay $7 for one hour of Wi-Fi access on domestic flights and $19 for 24 hours of Wi-Fi access on domestic flights.
Wait until you’re in the air to buy Wi-Fi access, though, and on most airlines the cost will be much higher.
How much higher? “Prices will vary,” is all several airlines will tell you. It is rare, if ever, that purchasing an hour or a full day of Wi-Fi access is cheaper once you’re up in the air.