American Airlines’ Impressive Wifi Milestone

Filed Under: American, Travel Technology

There aren’t many areas in which I’d say American Airlines’ product is industry leading. However, one area where American has done really well is with inflight wifi. Recently American has reached a new milestone for which they deserve credit.

American now offers passengers high speed satellite wifi on more aircraft than any other airline. This comes as American has just completed the process of retrofitting their fleet with high-speed wifi, meaning that more than 700 aircraft now feature satellite wifi.

All American 737s now feature high speed wifi

American has three wifi providers — Gogo, ViaSat, and Panasonic. American’s narrow body fleet is split between Gogo 2Ku and ViaSat Ka, while American’s wide body fleet features Panasonic wifi. The Panasonic wifi on wide body planes isn’t exactly high speed, though the product on their narrow body planes is.

You can now expect that if you’re flying any plane in the A320 or 737 family you’ll have fast wifi.

However, not all planes have received high speed wifi. Specifically, select MD-80s, 757s, and Embraer 190s don’t feature high-speed wifi, as these planes will be retired in the coming months.

What’s especially impressive here is that American made the bulk of their progress within the past year. It’s only early last year that they started this project, so to install high speed wifi on so many planes so quickly is impressive.

Like I said, this is one of the few things that American Airlines does well. I personally have a preference for the ViaSat wifi, as I find it to be a bit faster, but both the Gogo 2Ku and ViaSat offerings are excellent. The benefit of the Gogo offering is that T-Mobile customers still get free wifi on their phone, while they don’t on their ViaSat planes.

Now if only American could operate flights on-time I’d be quite happy. šŸ˜‰

Next up for American is installing power at every seat across their mainline fleet, as well as on their two-class regional jets. This is an area where they’re horribly lagging the competition.

American is also installing tablet holders on the majority of their narrow body aircraft. Since they’re not offering personal televisions, at least they’re giving you somewhere to put the entertainment you bring onboard. Yay?

American’s 767s feature Panasonic wifi

There are also now rumors that American will eventually introduce free wifi.

Bottom line

Wifi is an area where American does well well, and I’m impressed by the pace at which they’ve completed the process of installing high speed wifi. While there are many aspects of American’s product that leave a lot to be desired, the truth is that if I’m on an American plane with high speed wifi that’s on-time I’m happy enough.

My one wish is that American had gone with a higher speed wifi option on their wide body aircraft. While the Panasonic wifi is decent, it’s not as good as the Gogo 2Ku or ViaSat offering.

What has your experience been with wifi on American flights?

  1. does anyone else find it kinda funny that the AA 767 winglets still have the old AA Eagle on them

  2. I’d have to say the live TV option with these planes is pretty good too. I’ll give them credit for that.

  3. Panasonic on AA’s INTL fleet is nowhere close to “decent”, Lucky. Have you been on an AA INTL flight lately? About the only thing you can do on the INTL wifi is send WhatsApp and iMessages. Terrible.

  4. I have a monthly GoGo account with AA. It is accepted I believe when ViaSat is the service, but not Panasonic (or I have that flipped). So, sadly, I was on a 4+ hour wide-body flight from CLT to PHX 3 months ago (I believe the plane was going on to HI?) and AA did not set up any ability for the user to apply their GoGo account (to I believe Panasonic). So, I had to pay for wifi.

    So, while you say its great AA has so much wifi, I don’t think it is great that they are not all set up for one subscription…and I essentially have to double pay.

  5. “My one wish is that American had gone with a higher speed wifi option on their wide body aircraft. ”
    Ugrading wifi speed on wide body aircraft most likely means they pull the PTVs from those planes, since higher speeds will allow for better streaming.

  6. I prefer to use my own tablet to watch movies. The seatback holder is very nice.

    Plus wider selection over the AA Wifi network. Plus , using your tablet you can use your wireless headset. No need to get out the optional cable.

  7. Whatā€™a the point of ā€œstream your own entertainmentā€ if there are no outlets?

    And Panasonic is code for no Wi-Fi.

  8. The real issue with ViaSat Ka on widebody planes is that they don’t have any coverage outside the western hemisphere until the ViaSat 3 constellation goes up in the mid 2020s at earliest.

    Panasonic is pretty shitty, but at least it will work in most of the places the planes fly.

  9. The Gogo WiFi with free WiFi for t-mobile customers is really great. Decently fast, and it was a godsend two months ago when I had this really fun week with two flights a day for six days straight. I flew a mixture of American and Delta, but both use Gogo so I had free WiFi on every flight (even CRJs) except for one 757 which had Panasonic WiFi installed as far as I remember. (Unrelated, but miraculously not a single one of my American flights was delayed in the whole week of flying…) On short flights the free WiFi does compensate for no IFE. On longer flights, especially if Panasonic WiFi is used…not so much.

  10. “However, one area where American has done really well is with inflight wifi.”

    Normally, Ben, I’m with you…but this is one topic on which we couldn’t disagree further. I commute bi-weekly to Dallas (from Philadelphia) with a colleague. I fly Delta (mostly via DTW), she flies American (direct). I have never once, in months of commuting, been left without wifi on a single flight. I’ve had consistently reliable, high-speed wifi.

    Meanwhile, from her reports, wifi is hit or miss on AA (and much more miss than hit, seemingly). Wifi not working on her flights is the norm, not the exception. In probably 20 flights so far this year, I’d guess a dozen of her flights have left her unwilling to connect.

    Perhaps this is just an unfortunate data point in part of a much larger picture, but sadly, that’s what we as consumers base our purchase decisions on all too often.

  11. As a T-Mobile customer, I didn’t love the Gogo service quality, but I loved that it was FREE for us. I hate turning on wifi now and seeing “aainflight.” Congrats AA on the downgrAAde.

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