Don’t deny it…you’re addicted to the wireless Interwebs. With a quick click or a smart tap, you can be online no matter where you are (that article about rampaging camels certainly isn’t going to read itself). Do you take free Wi-Fi for granted? Absolutely. Do you wonder why connections aren’t as accessible 35,000 feet in the air as they are on the ground? You’re not alone. Here’s everything you need to know about the high-flying world of airlines with Wi-Fi.

The Skinny

Body - woman using wifi in airport

Consumer demand for Internet connection snuck up on the airline industry in 2008, but it’s still a digital work in progress. All the major airlines offer in-flight Wi-Fi, but they don’t provide the same services throughout their fleets. Most carriers rely on Gogo as their air-to-ground wireless provider, and the service is constantly improving. However, it presents travelers with a dizzying array of options and pricing tiers.

It’s hard to know exactly what airlines have Wi-Fi on which planes—or how they’ll satisfy your crushing need for YouTube—until you browse their websites. Major carriers update Wi-Fi status reports by flight, so for now, you’ll have to check that list before taking off. 

The Bad News 

Don’t expect free Wi-Fi on planes anytime soon. Some airlines offer this enticing amenity, but dig behind the advertising and you’ll find it’s usually only good for checking email and messages. Would you like full service with that connection? Open your wallet wide, because you’ll be paying for it. Gogo options range from unlimited plans for $50 a month to one-hour passes for $5, but different carriers offer different combinations on various flights.

Be careful and read the fine print on packaged deals, as going over the megabyte limit will bite down hard on your wallet. Connections can be dicey, too, and that’s bad news if you’re easily frustrated by the evils of Internet interruptions.

The Good News

The good news is it’s getting better—more and more planes with Wi-Fi configurations that deliver what you want are taking to the skies. Virgin America currently rules the roost with ultra-fast Gogo ATG-4 service on all flights. JetBlue is quickly catching up with its own FlyFi technology on all its planes. Delta’s fully equipped fleet offers Gogo and all its options. And Gogo itself is implementing satellite-based technology that promises vast upgrades in speed and connectivity across the industry. Overall, the future looks better, broader, and faster for your Wi-Fi experience on wings.

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The Best News

The best news about airline Wi-Fi is that it puts you in control of its cost prior to takeoff. Search online for coupon codes that you can apply to airlines with Wi-Fi and you’ll often find some promotions. You’ll also find sites that compare competing carriers’ options and rates. If you’re booking a travel package or setting up a car rental, ask about available airline Wi-Fi discounts. You’d be surprised that some travel-related companies offer this.

You’re always looking for fast connections, and competition is inspiring the airline industry to court your business with reliable, free Wi-Fi on planes. It’s their job to make the skies user-friendly and keep you happy in your seat. The online access you love so much