Inflight Wi-Fi has come a long way over the past several years. Back in the day inflight Wi-Fi was the exception rather than the norm, though things have changed significantly. Not only have we seen inflight Wi-Fi availability increase significantly, but speeds have also been greatly improved. Many of us can now be as productive in the air as on the ground (which is one of the reasons I value flying first class, since it gives you some extra space to be productive).
How to score discounts on inflight Wi-Fi
While for the most part Wi-Fi isn’t that ridiculously priced (at least when you consider that you’re in a metal tube going 500 miles per hour seven miles above the earth’s surface), there are still some opportunities to save money.
Some of the better ones have come and gone, so in this post I wanted to look at six ways you can save on inflight Wi-Fi. In no particular order…
Use an airline credit card benefit
Select airline credit cards offer discounts or statement credits for onboard Wi-Fi purchases. For example:
- The Alaska Airlines Visa® card (review) and Alaska Airlines Visa® Business Credit Card (review) offer 20% back on inflight Alaska Wi-Fi purchases
- The United℠ Explorer Card (review) offers 25% savings on inflight United Wi-Fi purchases
- The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card (review) offers up to 365 Wi-Fi credits per year (each is for $8, which is how much Southwest charges for inflight internet)
- The AAdvantage Aviator Red Card and AAdvantage Aviator Silver Card offer $25 and $50 annual statement credits (respectively) towards inflight American Wi-Fi purchases
Buy Gogo Wi-Fi passes in advance
Gogo has variable pricing once you’re onboard a flight, and prices can differ substantially based on the route, airline, day of the week, etc. One way to lock in a certain price is to buy a Gogo pass in advance. Gogo sells two types of passes in advance for travel on Alaska and Delta:
- Buy a continuous one hour pass for $7, valid on any domestic Gogo equipped plane
- Buy a continuous 24-hour pass for $19, valid on any domestic Gogo equipped plane
The passes are all valid for a year from when they’re purchased. The one hour pass isn’t that great of a deal, while I’d say that in most cases the 24-hour pass represents significant savings, especially if you’re taking multiple flights (they do all have to be on the same airline, though).
In some cases airlines will also sell Wi-Fi passes in advance, so keep an eye out for that.
Buy a monthly subscription
There are also some opportunities to buy monthly Wi-Fi subscriptions in advance. In some cases these passes are sold directly by airlines, and in some cases they’re sold by Wi-Fi providers.
For example, Gogo sells monthly Wi-Fi passes for Alaska and Delta. This can make sense if you’re a very frequent traveler on a particular airline. The options are as follows:
- You can buy a domestic Wi-Fi subscription for Alaska or Delta for $49.95 per month, or $599 per year
- You can buy a Delta global Wi-Fi subscription (so this is also available on long haul aircraft) for $69.95 per month
In some cases we also see airlines sell monthly subscriptions directly. This is often done when airlines have multiple Wi-Fi providers (for example, American’s domestic fleet has Wi-Fi from both Gogo and Viasat). American Airlines sells Wi-Fi subscriptions valid on its domestic fleet (this doesn’t work on long haul flights). The options are as follows:
- You can buy a Wi-Fi subscription for one device for $49.95 per month
- You can buy a Wi-Fi subscription for two devices for $59.95 per month
United Airlines also sells Wi-Fi subscriptions, and the options are as follows:
- You can buy a Wi-Fi subscription for North and Central America for $49 per month, or $539 annually
- You can buy a Wi-Fi subscription for global flights for $69 per month, or $689 annually
Use your T-Mobile Wi-Fi benefit
T-Mobile has a partnership with Gogo, which works on select Alaska, American, and Delta planes:
- If you have a Magenta plan, you get one hour of free Wi-Fi plus unlimited free texting for the entire flight on your mobile device
- If you have a Magenta Plus plan, you get unlimited free Wi-Fi, including texting, for the entire flight on your mobile device
To take advantage of this just make sure that your flight features Gogo Wi-Fi, go to the log-in page, and you’ll see an option to enter your mobile number to take advantage of the perk.
Fly JetBlue or La Compagnie
If you want high-speed Wi-Fi but don’t want to pay at all, then fly an airline with free Wi-Fi. Two airlines that come to mind as being revolutionary in that regard are JetBlue and La Compagnie. They both offer free high-speed Wi-Fi to all of their passengers with no data caps, provided by Viasat. They’re pretty exceptional in that regard.
There are some other airlines offering free Wi-Fi, though either with data limits, or the speeds aren’t that good.
On a larger scale, some airlines are working towards offering free Wi-Fi. For example, Delta is actively working towards this, and I imagine other airlines will follow Delta’s lead. However, it might be a while until that becomes a reality.
Fly first or business class on select airlines
As a general rule of thumb, airlines don’t offer free Wi-Fi in first and business class. For example, aside from JetBlue, no other US airlines offers premium passengers free Wi-Fi. That being said, some premium international airlines do offer free Wi-Fi, particularly in first class. For example, this is the case on airlines like All Nippon Airways, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Japan Airlines, Lufthansa, etc.
Restrictions vary — some airlines offer unlimited free Wi-Fi, while others have data caps.
Inflight Wi-Fi has come a long way, and I imagine it’s only a matter of time until it’s free on a widespread basis. In the meantime, there are options that can save you some money compared to the “sticker price” you see for Wi-Fi onboard.
Personally I have T-Mobile, so that gets me free Wi-Fi on my mobile device on all Gogo equipped aircraft. I also have a monthly Wi-Fi subscription with American Airlines, since that’s my primary airline in the US. I have a two device plan, which works great, since Ford and I typically travel together. Then for Alaska and Delta I’ll typically purchase a day pass in advance.
Other than that, I’ll typically just pay “out of pocket” for Wi-Fi once onboard.
Are there any other tips for saving on inflight Wi-Fi that I missed?