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Free Wifi On Planes What You Need To Be On The Lookout For

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Photo by Kelly L on

We decided to write this article on free Wifi on planes just as Southwest announced that it was effectively going to be offering free wifi on their domestic flights. This exclusive to domestic flights is certainly one of the things to keep an eye on if you’re interested in getting free Wifi when you travel by air. Also, US mobile service providers like T-Mobile have partnered with some of the main US airlines to be able to provide Free Wifi on planes. Of course, there are conditions that you have to follow to be able to gain this access. The tricky part about the whole issue is that different flights are going to have different conditions. At the same time mobile service providers that hold partnerships with airlines may or may not offer their service on international flights. 

The good thing about all of this is that you don’t necessarily need to plan ahead to be able to get free wifi on a plane. That’s of course if you want to look at the glass as half full. You may very well find yourself on a flight from an airline that advertises that they offer free wifi, but they won’t be able to offer the service on that particular flight. At the end of the day your best bet may be just to ask a flight attendant what the wifi options in flight might be. We’re still going to go over some of the possibilities that may be at your disposal to in fact get free wifi.   

  • How To Know If Your Flight Has Free Wifi 
  • What You’ll Be Able To Do With Free Inflight Wifi
  • Free Wifi on Planes May Not Always Be Free
  • Could You Get Hit With Roaming On A Plane? 
  • Free Wifi On Planes For Domestic and/or International Flights
  • Does My Service Provider Help Me Get Coverage On A Plane?  

How To Know If Your Flight Has Free Wifi 

To be honest the best way to know about the wifi situation on any flight that you get on, is to ask the staff. Here’s the main reason why we say this, not all of the planes that an airline may have in service are going to feature the same amenities. While airlines for the most part have the same plane covering a particular route and can more or less anticipate what they’ll be able to offer to travelers before they hop on the plane, that’s not an exact science. The truth is that the airline would have opted to switch planes to cover that route last minute for whatever reason. This news may not be all that comforting for people who are afraid of flying, but we’d be lying if we said that this didn’t happen.  

There’s always the chance though that you’ll get upgraded to a better plane that will offer free Wifi. In any case the best thing that you can do is literally ask the flight attendants on hand when you get on the plane what the situation is with the Wifi. Again, plenty of airlines are looking to offer free wifi across the board in all of their flights. We do anticipate that this will become an industry standard at some point in the following years. At least within some of the top airlines in the world. For now the best course of action is probably to still ask staff directly.

What You’ll Be Able To Do With Free Inflight Wifi

We want to make a distinction here, because some people may fail to differentiate the concept. T-Mobile, Verizon, and other wireless service providers have partnered with different airlines to be able to have their customers get service on specific planes. Again, as we just mentioned even if you’re flying with an airline that has partnered with your service provider service conditions in flight may vary. In any case, what we are trying to say is that free wifi on planes means that you’ll be able to check your email, and go on social media, as well as visit some other sites while on board. For the most part, texting in the traditional sense is not going to be available. You’re going to be able to DM through social media outlets, but for the most part traditional texting is a no-no. 

If you’re going to go on a flight with free wifi on planes you may want to shift your communication through other apps. Just in case you want to keep in touch with family members or coworkers when you’re in the air. Sometimes these wifi options are a bit limited. Meaning, that through the plane network you are only going to be able to visit certain sites. It’s a little bit like using hotel wifi where you have to log in and you have certain limitations to what you can view when connected to that network. Although the idea is restrictive, it may be for the best. Do you really want your seat neighbor to be able to indulge in the viewing of adult films throughout the flight?  

Free Wifi on Planes May Not Always Be Free

This seems like an awkward thing to say, so we want to unpack it a bit. The thing is, just because wifi is available on a plane doesn’t mean that it’s going to be free. Usually though, any of these extra services that planes offer which are not free are very clearly not free. What we mean by that is that you’ll have to go through a paywall to be able to access the content, or in this case the wifi that you so desperately need. Airlines don’t have a problem with redirecting you to a payment page to be able to grant you access to their inflight wifi.    

Whether or not you’re going to have access to free wifi on planes depends on the airline that you’re traveling with. It even depends on the actual plane that you’re flying. As we mentioned, even though they advertise particular services there’s always that possibility that you get on one of the planes that just hasn’t been fitted with the new amenities that the airline is offering. This happens rather frequently actually when airlines announce that they’re adding new features. If there is wifi available on the plane, and it’s not free you can pretty much be sure that the airline will let you know, kindly redirecting you to a payment page to be able to access the service.  

Could You Get Hit With Roaming On A Plane? 

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Photo by Daniel Moises Magulado on

There’s a definite possibility that this will be the case, but there are also very quick ways to be able to avoid this. The main issue about roaming on a plane typically starts with a person who outright ignores the instructions given by the flight crew before the flight. What do they always tell you before a flight? Turn off all of your electronic devices, right? Then they let you take them out when the plane is at cruising speeds. Throughout this whole process what you don’t want to do is arrive at your destination with your phone on normally. This is where you are most at risk of being hit with roaming fees. 

Really getting hit with roaming fees when you’re in the air is not an actual possibility. You’re too far up in the air to be able to find any relevant signal to the point where data can be transferred. When you hit the tarmac though you can start receiving maybe some of the texts that you missed, and you could even get an incoming call. Once that data transmission starts you can end up getting hit with roaming fees even if you don’t pick up the phone. Your phone can be receiving and transmitting background data outside of your coverage zone, and that qualifies as roaming. So keep the phone off or on airplane mode to be able to avoid any of these issues. 

Free Wifi On Planes For Domestic and/or International Flights

This is an interesting issue in our estimation for a variety of reasons. You’ll actually see this happen a lot in American domestic flights or flights that are towards neighboring countries where there’s maybe not a lot of connection. For example, recently we were on a flight from the US to Mexico, and the plane featured the free wifi on planes option as well as satellite TV. We were watching a soccer game on the service actually. Once the plane crossed the border from the US to Mexico the satellite service was shut off. In places like the European Union there’s a better chance of being able to keep the same type of coverage all the way through to your destination. 

In places like the US, and Mexico as well as parts of Asia the jurisdiction if you will changes a lot from country to country. It does in all cases, but there’s no European Union to essentially link many of these countries together. So what happens in the realm of free wifi on planes is that you can start out a flight with certain amenities only to watch them diminish as you move on to another country. Again this is something that most airlines are cognizant of and are more than willing to tell their passengers about. These are things that are usually announced through the PA system at some point during the flight. As we’ve mentioned time and time again though, when in doubt it’s best that you just go ahead and ask.  

Does My Service Provider Help Me Get Coverage On A Plane?  

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Photo by Jason Toevs on

We’ve kind of touched on this, but we did so very briefly, so it made sense to expand on this idea. Yes, there are wireless service providers that offer “free wifi on planes”. We intentionally air quoted this phrase because service providers like Verizon offer customers the ability to buy a package that is going to allow them to get service while they are on certain planes. Again though, the service is limited to a particular airline for the most part. With Verizon it’s an add on to your regular plan that costs up to 20 dollars more a month. There’s nothing free about that wifi. 

T-Mobile included their plan with some of the higher end post paid plan options that they offer. Once again, keep in mind that service is limited to only the most advanced planes on the particular airline that they work with. From the tone you can probably tell that this add-on isn’t necessarily something that we would widely recommend. Just because you’d have to fly quite a lot for you to actually maximize the value of what you’re paying. Essentially you’re facing the restrictions that we’ve talked about through the whole article. It could make sense for the business traveler that takes plenty of domestic flights. International coverage or international free wifi on planes is harder to come by. 

Free Wifi on Planes Conclusion

Is there free wifi on planes? That answer is yes, and actually the quality in some options is very decent. We would go as far as to say that this could become a norm in the commercial aviation industry moving forward. More and more airlines are going to be offering free wifi on their planes. There are still plenty of challenges that lie ahead though. The international travel issue is one that still stumps some airlines. They can get you pretty decent coverage on a domestic flight, even if you have to pay an extra fee for the coverage. Yet, when the plane crosses the border to another country, coverage seems harder to come by.  

It’s not a bad idea to research whether or not the plane that you’re going to be traveling in features free wifi ahead of time. At the end of the day, as we’ve mentioned changes do happen and that can alter the amenities that you’re going to be offered as a passenger. We don’t just mean this in a bad way really, you could be upgraded. When it all comes down to it though, your best bet may be to just directly ask a flight attendant what your options are regarding the wifi.