Inflight Wi-Fi: The Good, the Bad, and the Non-Existent

Do you consider Wi-Fi availability and quality when choosing an airline?

Fast inflight Wi-Fi. While it was once a luxury, today it’s practically a baseline expectation. But at this early stage of the game, the extent to which airlines deliver on that expectation varies considerably.

HighSpeedInternet.com has compiled a report rating U.S. carriers’ inflight Wi-Fi offerings, based on a combination of availability (only Virgin America is at 100 percent), speed (varies between 9.8 and 15 Mbps), and price (only JetBlue’s is free). Based on a combination of those three criteria, here’s how the airlines ranked, from best to worst:

  1. JetBlue
  2. Southwest
  3. Delta
  4. Virgin America
  5. Alaska Airlines
  6. American
  7. United

Even the best had room for improvement, and compromises were the rule. While JetBlue boasted solid 15 Mbps speeds and complimentary access, it was only available on 78 percent of the airline’s flights. Virgin America also featured industry-leading 15 Mbps speeds, coupled with availability on all its flights, but charged the most for access: $25.

While it’s a decidedly mixed bag, at least those airlines offer Wi-Fi to some degree, at some price. Three airlines still offer no inflight Wi-Fi whatever: Spirit, Frontier, and Hawaiian.

For those who travel frequently, a better option than purchasing Wi-Fi access on an airline-by-airline, flight-by-flight basis may be to subscribe to one of Gogo’s subscription plans, some of which allow Wi-Fi access on all six of the airlines utilizing Gogo’s Wi-Fi solution: Air Canada, Alaska, American, Delta, United, Virgin America. Monthly prices start at $49.95.

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and almost that long writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

This article first appeared on SmarterTravel.com, where Tim is Editor-at-Large.

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