Wi-Fi at 7-Mile High: Too Expensive or Something Else?

There have been numerous articles about wi-fi in the sky. One thing they have in common is a belief that the reason the flying internet option hasn’t “taken off” so to speak is because of price. I’m not so sure about that. Besides price, there are many reasons why the airlines and providers like GoGo can’t fill the seats with happy internet users.

  • Internet service only available when the plane is above 10,000 ft. While I understand why, this can cut substantially into the time otherwise available for use, especially for shorter flights.
  • Seats in coach are too cramped to get a laptop open. Everyone knows opening a laptop and working on it while sitting in coach seats is already challenging.
  • Lack of onboard power means many laptops will fail before the flight ends. Battery life in laptops is definitely getting better (some netbooks are rated at 10 hrs) but unless yours has a long life, the flight is usually longer than the battery life.
  • Planes actually landing ahead of schedule. A few months ago I mentioned that with certain flights on some airlines, the estimated flight time is actually inflated because these routes regularly arrive early. That means you may be paying an inflated price for wi-fi usage because your >10,000 ft flying time is actually less than estimated.
  • Some people really don’t want it. Yes, there are people who would rather sleep, read a book, or maybe enjoy whatever in-flight entertainment might be available.  They are quite content without internet for however many hours.

Of course, some flyers today have netbooks and iPads with longer battery life but their numbers are still few. As for smartphones, the biggest complaint is working with the small screen for hours.

Personally, I am a fan of in-flight internet. I agree some prices are arguably too high but if you are fortunate to be in first class on a long flight with a power outlet, there is much that can be accomplished. Anything less than that … well, that’s why I have my Kindle.

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  1. Price keeps me offline; not worth it for flights under 2hrs. I use an iPhone which lasts a long time.

  2. Hi Dave — The 2hr boundary makes sense in deciding whether to get online or not. Why bother when 25% or more of that time all electronics need to be off? I also enjoy the freedom from being connected even if it’s just for a couple of hours.

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