How to avoid rising inflight wi-fi prices

Taking a ride on Gogo's inflight lab last year (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Taking a ride on Gogo’s inflight lab in Itasca, IL last year (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Inflight wi-fi provider Gogo released statistics today showing that SFO has the highest percentage of passengers using its service, followed by New York JFK and then John Wayne/Orange County. LAX is the fourth most-connected. (See infographic below.)

It’s no surprise that airports located in coastal areas with a preponderance of longer transcontinental flights come out near the top of the list. It’s just not worth the hassle or the cost to break out the laptop or tablet on a flight under two hours. That’s why the poorest performers when it comes to wi-fi (such as Pensacola, Savannah or Akron) are small airports that primarily offer only short commuter flights to larger hubs where longer flights await.

In other Gogo news, the price to log-on onboard has jumped lately. Last week when flying between SFO and Atlanta, I noticed that the fee for a day pass purchased onboard had jumped to $26.95. Ouch! That’s a lot when you consider that Gogo competitor Row 44 only charges $8 per day  per device for inflight wifi on Southwest Airlines flights.

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When I tweeted about the surprise price increase, Gogo responded with the suggestion that frequent users purchase a $14 all day pass BEFORE they get onboard. That represents a significant savings, and will be something I do before every transcontinental flight in the future. Especially now that it seems that buying wi-fi at the last minute at overly bloated prices is like buying last-minute airline tickets at overly bloated prices.

What’s nice about the $14 day pass is that it’s good for 12 months on any Gogo-connected airline– so if you end up not using on one flight, you can use it later. For those with a heavy month of travel ahead, a monthly pass is available for $49.95. Gogo is also offering a three-pack for just $30 good for flights through the end of August. (Look for the “Summer sun 3-pack” on the Gogo home page.)

The key here is that Gogo obviously is pushing us to buy passes ahead of time instead of onboard. 

Are you a heavy user of inflight wi-fi? Does the availability of it influence your airline decision (hello, United!)? How much is too much to pay for the convenience of logging on on the fly? And finally, have you noticed any improvement is speed or connection using Gogo lately?

Please leave your comments below! 

Chris McGinnis

Gogo most connected cities wifi



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  • OneFastSkater

    I was and still am really upset with this business practices. It’s definitely predatory and has caused me to reduce the business I give them. It’s a monopoly and they have you by the short hairs. I’m voting with my wallet.

  • Damian

    Happy about United Wi-Fi price ($19.99) and service–currently on a United 747 ICN-SFO and just sent a 12MB email while over the Pacific. It’s fast enough for email and some light browsing.

  • SFscott

    What’s outrageous about that price is that you’re essentially getting dial-up modem speeds, so good for only email. Moreover, United has nearly no planes outfitted for wifi, other than their p.s. flights to/from JFK.

  • Jeff

    The American Express Corporate Platinum Card includes reimbursement for 5 gogo uses per year, no matter the cost.

  • John C. Baker

    I bought a $299 Chromebook. Comes with 12 free passes. It essentially paid for itself in Gogo passes (and the fact that Google gives you 100GB on Google Drive for free). :-)

  • Chris McGinnis

    Thanks, Dan! I agree… the tablet (esp the iPad mini) makes short coach flight access to wifi a lot more appealing. –chris

  • Dan Leifer

    Great article. But I guess I disagree about wifi for short flights: I’ve used wifi on short Southwest flights and love it. It’s especially cool to take a photo out the plane window with my iPad and email it to a friend while I am still in the air. My clients are also impressed when I respond to their emails with “I’ll handle this as soon as the plane lands.” However, unless I’m in business class or in a seat with extra legroom, it’s too painful to use a laptop. But iPads and tablets are terrific with flight wifi.

  • Sue

    I stopped using Gogo after I realized that, after purchasing what I thought was a ‘One Month’ pass for ~$39, they automatically save your credit card information and bill ongoing every month (e.g., I had to Opt OUT of recurring monthly service/payments – not opt IN). After a bit of a fight with their Customer Service, and disputing months of charges with the credit card (btw they never send you any emails stating you are being charged monthly – or at least they didn’t in the past), they finally agreed to reverse the charges. I was so annoyed with what I felt was a poor customer experience/policy I don’t use them any more (even if they have changed this policy – I have no idea…). Do a quick search and you can see a lot of others have experienced the same issue.

  • Biggiggles

    I’d be interested to know the ranking of different city-pair routes.

    Gogo is a great service – I’ve had very good connectivity each time, and I’ve never had problems. My company has a subscription to iPass so I can use Gogo without paying the service fee every time (though my company is charged)…

    I was in a UA 747 that had their pilot wifi service from LHR to SFO recently, and it was awful. It did not work the whole way… so, even though Gogo might be expensive, that experience made me thankful that their service has such high fidelity.

  • Chris McGinnis

    Fernando: The Gogo system is land based– a network of antennae on the ground in North America beam the internet up to the plane. Gogo and others are rolling out a new generation system that is satellite based, which means it works over oceans. However, the new sat systems are only on a handful of planes and I’m hearing that the service is not quite ready for prime time. Thanks– chris

  • Fernando

    Flying on Delta from SFO TO NRT next week, why is there only wifi ‘over the continental US’? So what Delta is pretty much saying is you’re screwed over the Pacific? Are all airline wifi’s this way? Is it only Delta?

  • Mike

    On board a Virgin America flight right now after purchasing a 1 day pass @ $26.95. Ouch! Thanks for the tip to purchase in advance.