I’m addicted to inflight wi-fi and my ticket purchase decision is nearly always dependent on wi-fi availability onboard. That’s probably because I run an online business and being offline for long periods can have significant consequences.
But it’s not just me. I’ve noticed a big increase in the number of passengers onboard accessing wi-fi from their laptops, smart phones and tablets– and that’s part of the problem. Too many passengers accessing wi-fi at the same time slows down connection speeds.
Technology is barely keeping up with the demand for inflight wi-fi, but we’ve seen progress with the newer, faster satellite-based systems on United and JetBlue. Gogo has rolled out its faster ATG-4 air-to-ground system fleetwide on Virgin America, and its showing up on more Delta flights.
But even with those improvements, connections can be slow. Painfully slow. Especially when flying over desolate areas of the Rocky Mountains on a plane full of internet-hungry techies on a flight between New York and San Francisco.
Slowly but surely things will get better. And wi-fi in the sky will only become more ubiquitous. For a look at the current state of inflight wifi, airline booking site RouteHappy.com has produced an interesting report named “The Global State of Inflight Wi-Fi” which ranks inflight wi-fi by carrier.
Here are some interesting snippets:
On which airlines are you MOST likely to find inflight wi-fi? Based on the chart above, it’s Virgin America, Southwest and JetBlue. What’s best about Virgin here is that you know you are going to get inflight wi-fi every single time you get on a plane. No other airline can match that right now.
It’s important to point out that Virgin America is a small carrier with a tiny fleet compared to major airlines. So look above and see how airlines rank based on number of flights with wi-fi, and you see that Delta and Southwest lead…big time.
Availability of inflight wi-fi is huge…but increasingly important is having enough power to stay connected on long flights. Wi-fi is a huge drain on device batteries, so Routehappy took a look at which airlines offer the best access to in-seat power. Virgin America and Alaska lead in this category (see above), which is important because a large percentage of their flights are long-haul where in-seat power is essential. On the other hand, Southwest, which offers mostly short haul flights, offers no in-seat power at all. Lack of in-seat power is a big drawback for JetBlue since many of it’s flights are long haul transcon or NE to Florida flights– but it is working on adding more power.
We are lucky in the US because we were the first to enjoy widespread access to inflight wi-fi while the rest of the frequent flying world looked on with envy. That’s starting to change now as international carriers rapidly adding new satellite based systems for over water flights.
Among US carriers, Delta has about 37% of its international fleet outfitted with wi-fi— primarily on its 747s and A330s but coverage is sparse on its much larger fleet of 777s and 767s. United has wi-fi on all its 747s and about half of its 777s but only a handful of its new 787 Dreamliners. It’s only on two of United’s 767s. On American, only its new 777-300ER and select 777-200 planes are equipped with wi-fi.
How do YOU feel about the state of inflight wi-fi? Are you an addict? Happy or frustrated with the service… and the pricing? Please leave your comments below!
What are the two best all-around credit cards? Both currently offer 40,000 mile sign up bonuses!
Like what you just read? Then say so! Scroll back up to the top and LIKE the post on Facebook, post it on Linked In and/or tweet it!
Would you rather get TravelSkills Weekly instead of Daily? No probs! click here to sign up for TravelSkills Weekly.
Please join the 85,000+ people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email-per-day updates!