Today’s jet setters expect to stay connected, wherever they may be. Now, it seems the sky’s the limit — more and more airlines are trending toward free, unlimited inflight Wi-Fi.
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Airlines around the world are recognizing a big shift in customer expectations. To remain competitive, they are starting to make features like seat selection, free checked bags, and Wi-Fi part of the experience rather than a costly add-on. As a result, perks like free Wi-Fi are becoming the new standard for setting airlines apart.
JetBlue became the first airline to offer free Wi-Fi across all flights in January 2017. They call their service Fly-Fi and it is currently available on all services over the contiguous US.
Virgin America also offers fleetwide inflight internet access. Their complimentary messaging service means you don’t have to hover by the gate to send off one last message before final boarding call. You can now carry a conversation or let loved ones know you’re en route using approved apps such as iMessage, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Viber — for free! However, there is still an additional fee to use Wi-Fi for internet browsing.
American Airlines made waves as the first company to sign up for GoGo’s satellite-based internet system. However, they have not upgraded their technology since the now-outdated ATG-4 system was first installed on planes. They also get away with charging around $10 USD for a day pass and $49.95 USD plus tax for a monthly pass.
Other airlines offer Wi-Fi using various schemes. Turkish Airlines and Scandinavian Airlines continue to offer free Wi-Fi as a perk for frequent flyers and business class ticket holders. Qatar Airways and Philippine Airlines offer free Wi-Fi for passengers up to a certain time (15 to 30 minutes) or data usage limit.
“Our goal is to make Wi-Fi free with high-speed quality,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian said. “It will take another year or two to make that happen.”
For now, they offer free inflight messaging.
Following in their footsteps, Air New Zealand now offers free inflight Wi-Fi on all enabled aircraft. The key difference is that Air NZ offers free Wi-Fi on international routes. The decision follows a three-month trial of free Wi-Fi services. Now, they embark on their mission to update their entire fleet.
Passengers flying aboard the airline’s new Airbus A320neo and A321neo aircraft will continue to have Wi-Fi access whilst airborne. Though it could take a year or two to install Wi-Fi on older aircraft.
The next time you’re stuck choosing between flights or carriers, don’t forget to factor in Wi-Fi availability and price.