American Airlines Trials (Limited) Free Inflight Messaging

Filed Under: American, Travel Technology

I guess this is better than nothing?

American introduces free Facebook Messenger

As of today (December 16, 2020), American Airlines will trial offering free Facebook Messenger and Messenger Kids on most flights with Viasat high speed Wi-Fi. Viasat Wi-Fi is available on most mainline narrow body aircraft (it’s not available on regional jets or wide body aircraft).

To connect, you simply have to download the Facebook Messenger or Messenger Kids app before your flight, and then when you’re in the air you can connect to the AA-Inflight Wi-Fi signal and launch your messenger app.

American says that “the holidays are a special time to enjoy quality time with the people that matter most, and this is just another way customers can connect from the sky to let family and friends know theyā€™ll see them soon.”

The airline also says that this trial will guide future planning. As before, American will continue to offer music, movies, and TV shows that can be streamed directly to passengers’ devices, as long as you have the American Airlines app on your phone or tablet.

This is a step in the right direction

Look, it’s objectively nice that American has introduced some form of free inflight messaging, though it’s also hard to get excited about, both from a competitive standpoint, and from what American itself has promised in the past:

  • This is only a trial, so it’s not even a permanent feature as of now
  • This is limited to Facebook Messenger, and not other messaging services; there’s nothing like Facebook Messaging with grandma, so she can share recipes and screenshots of pictures with you, eh? šŸ˜‰
  • A few years ago American Airlines said it would introduce free inflight messaging, but nothing ever came of that
  • Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines permanently offer inflight messaging across platforms, and have for quite a while

American plans to eventually introduce free inflight wifi altogether, but presumably that’s just because Delta promised the same first.

Bottom line

American Airlines has introduced free inflight messaging through Facebook Messenger. For now this is a trial, though it could stick around. If you’re not someone who would otherwise pay for wifi then this is a positive development.

Unfortunately the offering isn’t as robust as what you’ll find on Alaska and Delta, but it’s better than nothing.

Will you benefit from American’s new inflight messaging?

  1. United has the most entertaining (non-policy) policy: free messaging on select flights using select WiFi systems that must have some sort of unplugged port setting that allows free (non-media) messaging and push alerts to go through. Havenā€™t flown enough recently to see if theyā€™ve fixed this glitch but I recall on certain WiFi systems I believe only on certain Boeing 737ā€™s they have this ā€˜featureā€™.

  2. jetset is correct. I have never seen any consistency in UA’s internet service offerings in part because they are spread across multiple providers.

    DL and WN have consistently delivered what they promised on the internet save specific aircraft malfunctions that the crew knew about.

    The TMobile partnership provides free internet on a cell phone on most Delta flights I have taken, including across the oceans.

  3. Super weak – not sure I’d call this an enhancement at all. They should have expanded their relationship with Apple and rolled out free inflight iMessage. Now that would have been popular.

    Let’s be real – Facebook isn’t that hip among the younger crowds that are flying AA right now. It’s not 2011 and just look at Facebook’s awful press. With so few boomers flying right now, I’m not sure who the target demographic for this is.

  4. I used WhatsApp on delta the other day, which was great.

    Unfortunately, it wouldn’t recognize my phone number for the free tmobile browsing, but not a big deal. I watched Rent instead.

  5. @Alex W – “With so few boomers flying right now, Iā€™m not sure who the target demographic for this is.”

    I’d imagine the target demographic is Facebook executives, who have probably cut some sort of deal with American to drive users to Facebook Messenger.

  6. So what? Delta and other airlines have had free in flight messaging for years. Even some other message apps are free on board like WhatsApp.

  7. AA should offer free WhatsApp messaging, like Southwest. The free, secure, platform-agnostic app is very widely used in other parts of the world, with a growing user base in the U.S.

  8. Why limit internet usage to text and messaging apps? JetBlue offers free inflight wifi. That’s by far the best domestic option in the skies today, and yet the article doesn’t even mention B6.

  9. Facebook (w/o messenger) seems to work as well. I used it (to my surprise) on my UIO-MIA flight last week.

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