ONLY A FEW AIRLINES OFFER FREE WI-FI
Inflight Wi-Fi access is more popular than ever, and airlines have responded to the demand by expanding and improving service across their fleets. Most airlines offer a number of different service plans at various price points, but of course the price point everyone really wants is free.
Only eleven airlines offer free Wi-Fi. Seven are transatlantic, four transpacific, and none low-cost. Norwegian Air has announced it will become the first low-cost airline to offer free Wi-Fi to all passengers on its transatlantic flights within a year even as a dispute over the future of airline internet access heats up.
The company is the biggest low-cost European airline across the Atlantic, offering $99 (£77) single flights from London to New York. Now it plans to equip its fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliner and
737 Max aircraft with Wi-Fi. The exact terms of the service are not yet known, but Skype and Netflix are unlikely to be accessible.
A spokesman for Norwegian said: “We were the first to launch free Wi-Fi in Europe and the first to have it fleetwide for shorthaul.”
JetBlue was the first airline to provide free, high-speed Wi-Fi on all flights, but it only flies in North America and the Caribbean.
Free Wi-Fi from the moment you board to the moment you land is a rare treat indeed. Here is a global view of who do offer it:
NORTH AMERICAN AIRLINES
JetBlue Airways: Basic service is free, and premium service is $9 per hour. The service, which JetBlue calls “Fly-Fi,” is provided by ViaSat and should offer plenty of bandwidth for various internet tasks, including streaming video.
Norwegian Air: Free service on flights within Europe and between the US and Caribbean (no service on transatlantic flights).
Finnair: Business Class passengers and Finnair Plus Gold members can enjoy complimentary internet access for one hour. For Finnair Plus Platinum members the service is complimentary for the whole flight. Aer Lingus: WiFi is complimentary for Business Class passengers.
MIDDLE EASTERN AIRLINES
Emirates Airlines: The airline offers 10MB of data free to all passengers, and has expanded its free in-flight Wi-Fi services effective immediately to offer unlimited data for all Skywards Platinum and Gold members regardless of their class of travel. Meanwhile, economy class customers and non-Skywards members will be offered 20MB of free data usage within the first two hours of logging. Additional data can be purchased in 150MB or 500MB blocks, with discounts for Skywards Silver and Blue members. Extra 500MB for $1 on Airbus A380 aircraft. Qatar Airways: Free for the first 15 minutes, then $5 for one hour or $10 for three hours. On longer flights, passengers can access Wi-Fi for the duration of the trip for a flat fee of $20. Etihad Airways: Passengers on flights to the US will receive Wi-Fi vouchers from cabin crews with the onboard welcome drink. These vouchers will provide free WiFi for the duration of the flight.
Turkish Airlines: Wi-Fi is complimentary for Business Class passengers, and for Economy Class passengers who are members of its Elite or Elite Plus rewards program. The airline said it was working on rolling out a system to allow passengers to use 3G data roaming on mobile phones to connect to the internet in-flight, and planned to make Wi-Fi freely available on their Boeing 777 and Airbus 330 aircraft in April 2017.
Philippine Airlines: The airline offers 30 minutes of free inflight Wi-Fi across all cabin classes.
Air China: The airline offers free download speeds of up to 30Mbps, but the service is only available on domestic flights and can only be used on a tablet or laptop – not a smartphone.
China Eastern: The airline offers free Wi-Fi but passengers are limited to 258 yuan worth of use on both domestic and international flights.
Nok Air: The airline offers free Wi-Fi for the duration of the flight, although it is only available on a small number of aircraft.
And you might be surprised to learn there are actually a number of different ways to get no-cost Wi-Fi service. While Gogo is the largest Wi-Fi provider, there are actually four different companies — Gogo, Panasonic, ViaSat and Row44 — specializing in inflight Wi-Fi. Different airlines and even different aircraft can use a variety of these companies, especially for international flights, so you can end up on a flight in which one or more of these options aren’t available to you.
If your cell phone service is through T-Mobile, you already have one free hour of Gogo Wi-Fi on every flight you take just for being a T-Mobile customer, plus unlimited texting through internet-based messaging services such as iMessage or WhatsApp and unlimited access to Visual Voicemail. Note that you must have a valid E911 address and you must make at least one Wi-Fi call with your SIM card installed before you fly. Then once you’re in the air, launch your browser and click the T-Mobile banner on the start page, and you’ll be online.