This is interesting: I’ve paid as little as 3 bucks for plenty of internet time but some airlines charge up to £2.50 PER MINUTE!
Thanks to Mail Online Travel for this info (current Jan 2016). – Ned
It’s the amenity that passengers want more than anything when they set foot on a plane, but few have ever used it due to high costs or slow speeds.
In-flight wifi remains a frustrating aspect of air travel for those who want to stream their favourite programmes, tweet a photo from 35,000ft or stay in touch with family and friends back home.
With widespread complaints that it is expensive and slow, analysis of current pricing plans has found that just a handful of airlines offer free wifi, and most are cashing in with plans that cost as much as £30 ($45) for a six-hour flight.
Budget airlines Norwegian and JetBlue are two of the few who offer free wifi for every passenger on board, although Norwegian’s free service is limited to flights within Europe and between the US and Caribbean.
When it comes to other carriers, passengers can end up paying a fee that matches or exceeds their monthly broadband charges at home.
And they shouldn’t expect any uniformity from airline to airline or even across the same carrier, as availability, prices and speeds vary per company, aircraft, destination or electronic device.
While major American carriers currently offer wifi to their passengers, while British airlines have been slow to meet the demand, with many not offering the service at all.
Tim Farrar, president of TMF Associates, told MailOnline the highest price he has encountered was $45 (£30) on a Virgin America flight from Washington, DC, to San Francisco.
That’s more than three times the average price – £8.50 ($13) – of a single session on a US domestic flight, with airlines getting a 20-25 per cent cut from providers such as Gogo, said Farrar.
Gogo, one of the world’s largest providers, sells day passes for $16 (£10.50) when purchased in advance, although on-board purchases can be about £25 ($40) per flight.
For £40 ($60), travellers can get a month’s worth of access on all domestic flights with Gogo service, including Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, American Airlines and Virgin America.
Gogo recently announced a new messaging pass that allows passengers to use apps such as WhatsApp, Viber, Skype and iMessage for under £2 ($3) per flight on most flights in the US and Canada.
WHAT DO AIRLINES CHARGE FOR IN-FLIGHT WIFI ACCESS?
Pricing plans and availability vary by airline and aircraft. Here is a sampling of some of the options available to passengers:
Aer Lingus: £5.85 ($9.95) per hour or £11 ($18.95) per flight; free for business class
American Airlines: £10 ($16) for an all-day pass and £33 ($49.95) for a monthly pass on domestic flights; £8 ($12) for two hours, £11.50 ($17) for four hours or £12.75 ($19) for a full flight on international routes
Delta Air Lines: £13.50 ($19.95) for 60 minutes on a laptop/tablet, £27 ($39.95) for a full flight on a laptop/tablet, £10 ($14.95) for 60 minutes on a mobile, £20 ($29.95) for a full flight on a mobile
Emirates: 10MB of data free, with an extra 500MB for 65p ($1) on Airbus A380 aircraft
Finnair: £3.50 ($5.50) for one hour or £11 ($16.50) for the entire flight on its Airbus A350 (the service is free in business class)
JetBlue: Basic service is free, premium service is £6 ($9) per hour
Norwegian: Free service on flights within Europe and between the US and Caribbean (no service on transatlantic flights)
Qatar Airways: 5MB of data from £1.35 ($2), three hours for £6.75 ($10) or the whole flight for £14.75 ($22) on Airbus A380 aircraft
Southwest Airlines: £5.40 ($8) a day
United Airlines: £2.70 ($3.99) to £10.75 ($15.99) per domestic flight, depending on the distance; hourly rates range from £1.35 ($1.99) to £2.70 ($3.99)
Virgin Atlantic: £14.99 ($22.30) per flight
Emirates is one of the airlines that offers its passengers a small amount of data for free before charging a fee.
Passengers on its Airbus A380 aircraft receive 10MB of data free, with an extra 500MB costing just 65p ($1).
An Emirates spokesperson said: ‘Our wifi service is incredibly popular among our customers. According to our data, the websites our passengers most frequently access on board include Facebook and Google, and chat services such as Skype and WhatsApp, reflecting travellers’ desire to stay connected on the move through social media.’
Plans can also vary according to the device, be it a laptop, tablet or mobile phone. Those plans will charge more for laptops and less for smartphones.
According to analysts, in-flight wifi is costly because airlines see it more as a revenue generator than a perk for passengers.
Farrar, who is based in California’s Silicon Valley, said: ‘Most passengers aren’t willing to pay anything for it.
‘Any provider that’s trying to make a profit is going to figure out rapidly that they’re better off charging a lot and getting the business travellers to use it. They can expense it.’
Seb Lahtinen, co-founder of London-based Thinkbroadband.com, added: ‘It’s really geared to try and get revenue, especially from business customers who are using business [credit] cards and need to catch up on work, and they are willing to pay.’
The cost of the equipment and installation isn’t cheap, he added.
Some airlines are allowing travellers to redeem their frequent flyer miles for wifi access. United Airlines recently became the first US carrier to do so, although the option won’t be offered on all domestic and international routes until next summer.
Free wifi is a bonus for loyal travellers. Finnair Plus Gold and Platinum members, for example, don’t have to pay to connect on its Airbus A350 fleet.
Airlines currently use two systems to provide wifi access on their planes – satellite connections for flights over oceans, and air-to-ground, which is faster.
Most airlines offer download speeds of 1-3MB per second, which is OK for internet browsing or checking email, but not for streaming TV programmes or films, said Lahtinen.
The average UK download speed at home is just under 23MB per second.
To meet the demand, a handful of airlines have launched free streaming using on-board technology, including Virgin America, which has partnered with Netflix. Last month JetBlue allowed its passengers to stream using Amazon Prime.
Monarch Airlines doesn’t allow its customers to do things such as browse the internet or check wifi, but uses wifi to offer a video streaming service that costs up to £3.99 ($6) for an entire flight and operates through an app downloaded onto a tablet or laptop.
Video streaming is one of the main reasons passengers want affordable wifi on board.
A recent Cheapflights.co.uk survey of 1,073 adults found that 70 per cent of passengers want to remain connected to avoid boredom, stay in touch with family and friends, or complete business work.
Phil Bloomfield, a spokesman for the travel website, said: ‘Airlines find themselves facing a dilemma when it comes to in-flight wifi.
‘Despite the ever increasing presence of mobile and tablet devices, and an expectation among certain generations and groups within the travelling public that the ability to be permanently connected should be a given in this day and age, others see flying as one of the few remaining bastions of peace and digital isolation, and even look forward to taking to the skies knowing the constant bombardment from technology will cease temporarily.’
It’s for this reason some airlines have set up filters to block programmes such as Skype.
Bloomfield added: ‘As the technology to allow mass participation continues to lag behind the reality of demand, it looks as if being able to post a selfie from your seat, or Instagram your flight meal, might remain the preserve of the few at the front of the aircraft for the foreseeable future.’
And it appears those who are hoping prices will come down shouldn’t hold their breath.
Farrar said: ‘It’s likely to be the carriers who are trying to differentiate themselves and win business away and win market share based on the passenger experience, so you can see why Norwegian have done it.
‘It probably won’t be the British Airways or Lufthansas of the world who jump in that direction. They want to make money off the service.’
Currently, British Airways passengers are unable to use wifi, but the airline is in discussions with satellite technology company Inmarsat.
A BA spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘Starting with UK domestic routes it intends to roll out Europe’s first ground-based 4G broadband network giving customers the internet access they expect on the ground while in the air.
‘In terms of pricing, we are not providing further details at this stage.’
Ryanair, Europe’s largest budget airline, is another airline that hasn’t started offering in-flight wifi just yet.
A spokesperson said: ‘We are currently exploring the possibility of being able to offer customers in-flight entertainment, such as movies or games they could access via their smartphones, tablets or laptops and we hope to commence some trials soon.’
EasyJet is also in talks to bring wifi to its passengers.
A spokesman said: ‘EasyJet will not fit a “first generation” wifi product to its aircraft as it doesn’t produce a high enough quality wifi for passengers and also significantly increases fuel burn and therefore cost for the airline.
‘EasyJet is talking to “second generation” technology providers, including Inmarsat. It appears that this technology solves the problems of the previous generation technology and easyJet believes it is no longer a question of if but when we are able to install a product that works well for our passengers and the airline.’
AIRLINES WITHOUT WIFI ACCESS
These airlines are not yet equipped with technology that allows passengers to use wifi to browse the internet or check their email:
British Airways – easyJet – Flybe – Jet2 – Monarch – Qantas – Ryanair – Swiss – Thomas Cook – Thomson