How to Get Wi-Fi on a Plane (Guide)


Commercial cross-country flights may be long and boring, but there is one little feature that can all the difference. It has the power to distract you and make life in even the cramped middle seat of the coach cabin somewhat less arduous. What is this incredible invention? Wi-Fi.

The availability of on-board internet is a selling point for passengers, and airlines are working rapidly to outfit as many of their aircraft as possible with Wi-Fi generating devices. Someday, Wi-Fi may be just as much of a given as beverage service, but for now, passengers are often left wondering whether their next flight will be Wi-Fi enabled, how to get wi-fi on a plane, and how much in-flight Wi-Fi costs.

Which airlines offer Wi-Fi and how much does it cost?

Many but not all of the major national airlines in the United States offer some type of on-board Wi-Fi service on at least a portion of their fleet. Several airlines are in the process of adding Wi-Fi functionality, and a few others have elected to remain Wi-Fi free at this time.

Pricing for Wi-Fi access runs the full spectrum from completely free to nearly $700 depending on the length and type of coverage required. Expect to see tiered access plans covering everything from a 1-hour domestic rate to a yearly global subscription plan.

Here is what to expect for in-flight Wi-Fi when flying the major national airlines:

  • Alaska Airlines (AS)
    • Wi-Fi available on most flights except Q400 aircraft
    • $7 for 1-hour
    • $19 for 1-day
    • $49.95 monthly domestic flight Wi-Fi plan
    • Free texting function on Wi-Fi enabled flights—supports iMessage, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp
    • In the process of upgrading fleet to faster satellite Wi-Fi
  • Allegiant Air (G4)
    • Wi-Fi not provided on any Allegiant Air flights
  • American Airlines (AA)
    • High-speed Wi-Fi available on almost all domestic flights
    • Rates start at $10
    • $49.95 monthly domestic flight Wi-Fi subscription plan
    • $59.95 2-device monthly plan
  • Delta Air Lines (DL)
    • Wi-Fi available on nearly all flights
    • $7 for 1-hour
    • $19 All-Day Pass for domestic flights
    • $28 Delta Global Day Pass
    • $49.95 Monthly Airline Plan for North America
    • $59.95 2-device Plan for monthly access on North American flights
    • $69.95 Global Delta Plan for monthly access on worldwide flights
    • $599.99 Annual Airline Plan for yearly access on North American flights
    • Free texting function on Wi-Fi enabled flights—supports iMessage, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp
  • Frontier Airlines (F9)
    • Wi-Fi not provided on any Frontier Airlines flights
  • Hawaiian Airlines (HA)
    • Wi-Fi not yet provided on any Hawaiian Airlines flights
  • JetBlue Airways (B6)
    • High-speed Wi-Fi at every seat, on every plane
    • Free
  • Southwest Airlines (WN)
    • Wi-Fi available on select aircraft
    • $8 for 1-day
    • Free for A-List Preferred Members
  • Spirit Airlines (NK)
    • Wi-Fi installations on Spirit Airlines aircraft began in November 2020 with the entire fleet expected to have Wi-Fi capabilities in 2021
    • $6.50 average anticipated price depending on route and demand
  • Sun Country Airlines (SY)
    • Wi-Fi not provided on any Sun Country Airlines flights
  • United Airlines (UA)
    • Wi-Fi available on all mainline aircraft and two-cabin regional aircraft
    • Rates vary based on which of United’s four Wi-Fi providers is servicing your flight segment
    • MileagePlus award miles can be used to purchase Wi-Fi
    • $7 to $14 for 1-hour
    • $19 to $29 for 1-day
    • $49 monthly North and Central America subscription
    • $69 monthly global subscription
    • $539 annual North and Central America subscription
    • $689 annual global subscription
    • 7,500 miles for monthly North and Central America subscription
    • 80,000 miles for annual North and Central America subscription
    • 10,500 miles for monthly global subscription
    • 100,000 miles for annual global subscription

How to check if a flight has Wi-Fi

There are several ways to find out if you can expect your next flight to have Wi-Fi or not. In some cases, you can find out well in advance, while other times you won’t know until the flight attendants announce that there is indeed Wi-Fi onboard.

Follow the below steps to check if your flight has Wi-Fi:

Review the above list of airline Wi-Fi offerings

If you are flying Allegiant Air, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, and Sun Country Airlines, your flight will not have Wi-Fi as these airlines do not offer Wi-Fi on any of their flights. Passengers flying one of the other airlines should continue to the next step.

Check Wi-Fi availability in advance on the airline’s website

If your airline provides Wi-Fi on some, but not all flights, you may be able to check your flight’s Wi-Fi status in advance online. American Airlines maintains a flight status page where passengers can search for their flight information including Wi-Fi capability.

United Airlines lists their Wi-Fi service providers by aircraft type and offers a map showing coverage for each provider. Locate your aircraft type on your reservation or itinerary, then reference that against the list on the United Wi-Fi information page.  

Check Wi-Fi availability in advance on a third-party site

While not necessarily as reliable as the information on the airlines’ websites, passengers can try consulting third-party sites like SeatGuru or booking sites like Hipmunk and Kayak that include anticipated Wi-Fi availability in their flight details.

Ask the customer service agent at check-in or at the gate

Sometimes you have already made it to the airport and are simply wondering if you need to push through and send that last email prior to boarding or if you can get a coffee now and continue working in-flight. Try asking the customer service agent at the ticketing counter or the gate agent who is working your flight.

Look at your boarding pass and the flight information screen at the gate

While not always the case, sometimes Wi-Fi information will be indicated on your boarding pass. It can also be displayed on the digital flight information board at your departure gate.

Ask the flight attendant when you board the aircraft

Last, but not least, if all else fails, when you board the aircraft, ask the flight attendant if Wi-Fi will be available on the flight.

How to Connect to In-Flight Wi-Fi

If you have a phone or other small device which is not required to be stowed, you can try connecting to the Wi-Fi immediately after finding your seat, although it may not be activated yet. Otherwise, when you have reached cruising altitude and the flight crew notifies passengers that it is safe to unstow electronic devices, pull out your device and follow the below steps to connect to the in-flight Wi-Fi network:

Place device in airplane mode

Devices must remain in airplane mode for the duration of the flight so they do not interfere with the aircraft’s navigational system. Confirm your device is in airplane mode.

Turn on your device’s Wi-Fi

Enable the Wi-Fi functionality on your device so it can search for the on-board Wi-Fi network.

Find and connect to the in-flight Wi-Fi network

Pull up the list of available Wi-Fi networks and select the designated in-flight network. Connect to the network.

Launch web browser

Before you can start using the Wi-Fi, you typically will need to go to the airline’s in-flight Wi-Fi purchase page. This page may pop up automatically when you connect to the network or you may have to manually open a browser window for the purchase page to populate.

Select and purchase Wi-Fi plan

View the list of connectivity options and select the plan you wish to purchase. Enter credit card information or mileage information (if applicable), and complete the purchase to begin using the Wi-Fi network.

Takeaways

On-board Wi-Fi for commercial flights is an amenity that passengers are continuing to request. Many of the major airlines are working to equip their fleet for Wi-Fi. They offer flexible access plans to cover everyone from the infrequent recreational passenger to the jet-setting business executive.

If you want to know if your flight will have Wi-Fi, there are multiple ways to find out in advance, and once you are on-board, the process of connecting to the Wi-Fi network is straightforward. Before your flight, charge up those electronic devices and slip them in your carry-on so you can take advantage of in-flight entertainment, connectively, and productivity. 


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