So the other day on a WiFi equipped domestic flight, I wondered why no international flights have WiFi… or at least not any I’ve been on.
Being a technical idiot, I wondered aloud to the gal seated next to me if it was literally because there were no towers on the ocean floor for the plane’s antenna to connect or some such! Here is the whole story:
- The U.S. service does work off of a series of cellular ground stations, but it’s possible to offer inflight wi-fi on international flights via satellite.
- As far as I can tell all domestic carries use Gogo’s service. Other than on Virgin America where it’s free (amazing!), it’s $4.95 on flights up to 1 hour; $9.95 on flights between 1.5-3 hours; $12.95 on flights over 3 hours; or $34.95/month. It’s available on 800+ commercial domestic aircraft.
- Inmarsat has satellites that enable it to offer WiFi and mobile phone access (BlackBerry email, texting, etc.) anywhere. Some airlines, like Emirates and BA, offer in-flight Internet access via your mobile phone (i.e. BlackBerry email, text messaging and web browser) through Inmarsat.
- Lufthansa has some international WiFi. Cathay should have it soon–maybe even on their HK flights-whoo hoo!
- Jaunted has a nice guide to what airlines have domestic WiFi. Headline: only ones that do on all of their fleet are AirTran and Virgin America (they use GoGo).
- Alaska and Delta are signing up more planes; Continental is not.
- According to Gogo, on domestic flights offering pay for play WiFi, ten percent of people pay for it.
- Note to the Mr.: I think both Gogo and Inmarsat seem like companies worth researching for possible investing.
Stats aside, it’s a totally personal decision whether you think being reachable 24/7 anywhere on or above the planet is a good thing. I have at times really enjoyed the peace of flying because it really is the only time you can unplug and hence relax, as well as really get some focused reading or work done. At the same time, after 14 hours in the air, many of which are during prime business hours it can be quite anxiety inducing to finally check ones email two days later… so what do you think? Good or bad progress? Would you pay more to fly an international airline with WiFi or not?