If you’ve ever planned to finish some work on the plane (or scroll through TikTok, let’s be honest), only to find out that you can’t even open your browser, you know how inconsistent airplane Wi-Fi can be. On the other hand, when it works, receiving a message from someone who is flying over the Atlantic, still seems like a little miracle.
The fact is, airplane Wi-Fi is getting better and prices are coming down. If airplane Wi-Fi is something you plan to use, you should know the best options. Here is everything you’ve ever wanted to know about airplane Wi-Fi, including costs, reliability, and safety.
Which US airlines offer airplane Wi-Fi?
Every major US airline — with the exception of the ultra-low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines — offers Wi-Fi. That said, they don’t all offer Wi-Fi throughout their fleet, since some smaller aircraft that fly short regional routes may not be Wi-Fi-enabled. On planes that do have Wi-Fi, most airlines will allow you to access their own websites, cost-free, to make changes to a reservation, for example.
Which US airlines offer free airplane Wi-Fi?
“JetBlue is the only airline to offer free, unlimited, high-speed Wi-Fi at every seat, on every plane,” Julianna Bryan, Corporate Communications Manager at JetBlue, explains in an email exchange with Matador Network.
And this is true. While some airlines offer free messaging and others say they plan to offer free Wi-Fi in the near future, JetBlue has the most extensive, free offerings to date. And JetBlue customers like it that way.
“While it depends on the route, we find that many JetBlue customers take advantage of our free, high-speed Fly-Fi onboard,” adds Bryan.
How much does Wi-Fi cost on US airlines?
Wi-Fi is free on JetBlue.
United Airlines Wi-Fi costs vary by flight. Newark to Costa Rica’s Juan Santamaría International Airport costs $6.99, and Newark to San Francisco costs $40.99, both for the entire flight. United MileagePlus members can buy a monthly subscription for $49 for North and Central America and $69 for global. (Yearly subscriptions are $539 and $689, respectively).
Delta Air Lines
Messaging is free on Delta Air Lines. Wi-Fi costs only $5 per flight on many of its aircraft. Delta Air Lines is moving to offer free Wi-Fi in the near future.
American Airlines Wi-Fi costs between $12 for two hours and $19 for the entire flight on planes serviced by Panasonic In-flight Wi-Fi. AAdvantage members can buy a monthly subscription for $49.95 or $59.95 for two devices.
Wi-Fi on Southwest costs $8 per day. Messaging costs $2 per day. If you want to use your Wi-Fi to access Southwest’s streaming options, like on demand TV, that is free.
Messaging is free on Alaska Airlines. If purchased in advance, Alaska’s Wi-Fi costs $16 per day, $49.95 per month, or $599 per year. Purchased on the plane, it is $7 per hour or $19 all day.
How and when can I purchase airplane Wi-Fi on US airlines?
There is no need to purchase Wi-Fi on JetBlue since it is free. But to get connected, just choose FlyFi from the available Wi-Fi networks, then go to FlyFi.com and log in with your TrueBlue account or continue as a guest.
You can purchase United Airlines Wi-Fi before or during your flight, using a credit card. If you’re a MileagePlus member, you can also use miles. Turn on Wi-Fi and select the “United Wi-Fi” network. Then click on your browser and go to unitedwifi.com and make the purchase.
Delta Air Lines
You can purchase Delta Wi-Fi before or during a flight. Turn on Wi-Fi and select the “DeltaWiFi.com” network. It will take you to the Wi-Fi portal. If that doesn’t work, click on your browser and type deltawifi.com
You can purchase American Airlines Wi-Fi before or during your flight. Turn on Wi-Fi and select the “AA-Inflight” network. It will take you to the Wi-Fi portal. If that doesn’t work, click on your browser and type aainflight.com
You can purchase Southwest Wi-Fi before or during your flight. Turn on Wi-Fi and select the “SouthwestWiFi” network. It will take you to the Wi-Fi portal. If that doesn’t work, click on your browser and type www.southwestwifi.com
You can purchase Alaska Airlines’ Wi-Fi before or during your flight. Turn on Wi-Fi and select the “gogoinflight” or the “Alaska_WiFi” network. Then open your browser and go to www.AlaskaWiFi.com
What US airlines provide the best wifi?
JetBlue offers the best airplane Wi-Fi service. It offers free, high-speed Wi-Fi at every seat on every flight. You can stream movies and TV shows
Delta Air Lines
#2 Very good
Delta Air Lines is now offering Wi-Fi service through Viasat, having stopped offering Wi-Fi service through Gogo. Users can browse the internet, check email, and stream movies.
#3 Very good
More than three-quarters of Alaska’s airplanes are equipped with high-speed Wi-Fi, which can also be used from gate to gate and to stream videos. Some airlines require you to be at 10,000 feet to use Wi-Fi.
Southwest’s Wi-Fi is inexpensive — offering the best bang for your buck. Also, you can use your device to watch on-demand TV shows.
American Airlines uses multiple service providers for its Wi-Fi, and some offer better service than others. Upon booking your flight on American, you can see if the aircraft will have high-speed Wi-Fi.
United Airlines Wi-Fi has improved in recent years, but it is expensive on some routes. It uses four different Wi-Fi providers, depending on the plane, so some flights offer more seamless, glitch-free Wi-Fi than others. One of the providers is Gogo, which does not have a very extensive network. For now, don’t count on stream videos on United Airlines.
Can I use Wi-FI on airplane mode and how?
“Rules related to using cellular data in-flight are regulated by the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration]. This is not a JetBlue-specific policy,” says Bryan.
And the federal rule is that you have to switch your phone to airplane mode — turning off cellular voice and data — on all US domestic flights. So here is how to use Wi-Fi on airplane mode.
Depending on the model of your iPhone, swipe up or down to access your quick setting and press the airplane icon to switch it to airplane mode. Then press the Wi-Fi icon to turn on Wi-Fi
You can reach airplane mode by swiping down from the top of the screen to access the quick settings and select airplane mode. Then press the Wi-Fi icon to turn on Wi-Fi
Can you text on a plane with Wi-Fi?
You can text on a plane using iMessage, WhatsApp, and other Wi-Fi-enabled messaging services like Facebook Messenger. You can’t text using the telephone network.
Can I share the airplane Wi-Fi with someone with my hotspot?
No. Hotspots work by connecting a device, like your phone, to a telephone network and then using bluetooth to connect another device, like your laptop, to that network. Since you cannot use telephone networks on an airplane, you cannot tether to a hotspot.
Can I place a phone call on an airplane with Wi-Fi?
“On JetBlue, phone calls are not permitted in-flight, even when connected to Fly-Fi,” says Bryan. In fact, they aren’t permitted on any US airline, even on a service like FaceTime audio, as the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) does not permit private calls on airplanes.
Can I use FaceTime on an airplane with Wi-Fi?
You cannot use FaceTime on an airplane, as the FCC does not permit private calls on airplanes.
Is airplane Wi-Fi safe/secure to use?
Bryan says JetBlue’s Wi-Fi is safe to use.
If you want to be extra careful, though, consider that airplane Wi-Fi networks are essentially like public networks, and not like a private, password-protected network you might have at home. While it’s not really likely, a fellow passenger could potentially access your data. So use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) or simply know the risks.
How does in-flight Wi-Fi work?
“JetBlue’s Fly-Fi is powered by our partner ViaSat’s Geostationary, high-speed Ka-band in-flight connectivity solution leveraging satellite-based technology,” says JetBlue’s Bryan.
Airlines provide Wi-Fi through service providers, some of which link to satellites. Aircraft with satellite-enabled Wi-Fi, like all of those flown by JetBlue, have antennas on the top of their airplanes that link up with the closest satellite to connect your device to the internet and other wireless services. While some Wi-Fi providers rent bandwidth on satellites, ViaSat owns its own satellites.
Other services providers are still linking to a ground-based network, although that is slowly changing. Aircraft that use land-based Wi-Fi solutions have antennas on their underside.
When does airplane Wi-Fi not work and why?
“Our Fly-Fi coverage area varies with the type of plane and the route. All JetBlue-operated flights have coverage over the contiguous US. And, our recently restyled Airbus A320 and A321neo aircraft offer expanded coverage over much of the Caribbean and Central America. Our Airbus A321 Long Range aircraft offers expanded coverage to/from London,” says Bryan. But she adds, “Due to weather and other variables, this coverage area does not necessarily guarantee service availability.”
In fact, rain and snow can interfere with satellite technology. Also, some geostationary satellites are not accessible above 70 degrees of latitude, so if your international flight crosses over Arctic latitudes, you may be out of Wi-Fi for a while.
If the service provider your airline is using is Gogo’s basic service, you’ll be relying on a land-based network that has coverage holes. (Gogo also has a more updated, satellite-based service). And, if you are on an aircraft using a Wi-Fi option with slower connection speeds, the Wi-Fi may seem not to work because you’re trying to access a site that the airline has blocked, as it takes too much bandwidth.
Why do airlines charge for Wi-Fi?
Airlines charge for the installation and maintenance of Wi-Fi hardware on their planes. Since Wi-Fi service is contracted via a third party, airplanes charge you some of the cost they pay to those service providers. The antennas used to provide Wi-Fi also add extra weight to the plane and may result in the need for additional, and costly, fuel.