Will Long Haul Wifi Make a Difference to You?


I just stepped off my first long haul wifi flight earlier this week when I flew American from London to LA. Wifi was spotty for a couple hours, but when it worked, it was absolutely incredible. I worked a full day and now get home able to spend time with my family instead of catching up on everything I missed over the previous 11 hours. I will now actively be making international travel choices based on wifi when feasible.

Am I nuts or do you agree?

Get Cranky in Your Inbox!

The airline industry moves fast. Sign up and get every Cranky post in your inbox for free.

45 comments on “Will Long Haul Wifi Make a Difference to You?

  1. What was the cost? I paid $17 for 15 Meg’s of data on Singapore from SFO-HKG that seem to get used in a blink of the eye. I’ll only use it for highly needed business, but overall I will avoid it.

  2. I’m all about WiFi when I fly. It just depends on the cost. It’s also a good way to help control a child on longer flights so they can watch movies.

    1. You also download a bunch of movies on an iPad before your flight also. That will save on the wifi fee and breakdowns if the wifi goes out in the middle of a movie.

    2. I’m surprised that providers don’t block and/or deprioritize streaming video over inflight wifi. Thats alot of bandwidth to be dedicating to one device.

  3. Well, it would depend a lot on the price and the amount of work (email) to catch up to. On business trips I generally stay in hotels with Internet access and usually I can check out with all email handled. Spend time on the plane producing or polishing my reports; no need for net access then.
    (Things are different for early-morning departures though, but with webmail access at the airport the email can be generally handled before boarding.)

  4. I have to agree that price would play the biggest factor. $17 for 15MB seems awfully expensive and for 8+ hours of doing work email with attachments I’d have some explaining to do if I had a $50-60 bill for “email” while in flight. For personal use I’d watch a movie instead of spend the money. Now if there was an unlimited use plan for a reasonable fee ~ $25 or such, I could expense that no problem and would absolutely let it play a factor in what airline I booked.

  5. Ya I have to agree that the cost has to come back to earth a bit. But honestly, I usually don’t do work when I fly. I just relax, look out the window and listen to music. When I travel with my family, I have a wireless hard drive with a lot of movies on it to keep them entertained. I think for frequent fliers, they should give you unlimited for a certain amount each month. It also adds an incentive to stay with one airline.

  6. I do not travel for business so when I do its “to get away from it all”. Give me a window seat and a book and I’m good. The only device I take with me is my “dumb phone” and that’s only to keep whomever is picking me up at the airport informed if my arrival time is delayed.

  7. People are already glued to cyberland just about every second of their waking hours, so why not just relax when you can while on an airplane. Give your eyes and stress level a break.

  8. Was this on Wednesday? I was on AA’s LHRLAXflight in J on Wednesday…I paid $19 for the entire flight, with AA’s T-mobile service.
    Yes it was spotty — especially between Iceland and Canada. I have a monthly gogo pass and I’d say it was slightly worse in terms of speed and consistency vs the cell based domestic wifi.
    Fortunately no cap like others mentioned on SQ.
    But, I was able to get a lot of work done and when I got home to California didn’t have a mountain of emails to wade through.
    I think when going west for a daytime intl flight it’s certainly worth it, especially if its a work day and company covers the cost.

    1. nm – Sure was. I was in seat 9A on Wednesday. I had it go down twice on me between Ireland and Iceland and then for an hour over Canada. But the rest of the time it worked fine. Just pretty slow.

  9. It’s super helpful when you need to work, and I’m happy to pay the price to stay connected, but most of my flights, I just want to check facebook and read news. Then it’s not worth $15 for a 3 hour flight to Florida. I wish there was a two-tier system. I think more people would use it if it was cheaper. Or maybe a user-lite who just wants to do a few things.

  10. Lots of good questions about the cost here. Regular pricing on the LA to London flight was $12 for 2 hours, $17 for 4 hours, or $19 for the whole flight. On the way out, they were running a special for $5 for 2 hours. No megabyte pricing at all.

  11. You’re not nuts. I remember Derrick Kerr (on an earnings call) saying that the main reason US Airways decided to install Wi-Fi was because he found that he was making his travel plans around its availability. What’s important is having it available. As the old saying goes, “It’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.

  12. I never paid even when it was offered on my LH flights. My nightstand/kindle has lots of books I need to finish, and my iPad has lots of movies.

  13. I know that a lot of my coworkers specifically book flights including wifi. People are busy and if they can work while flying, it helps out. LAX-LHR is overnight, so you would probably be sleeping for most of the flight, so it is great that they give options for a lower price for less time. I think it is a great option.

  14. I’m flying Southwest from MDW to SFO today. The video on demand option is inexpensive particularly for a flight of that length it is worth it. For a transoceanic flights it’s a no brainier.

  15. I agree with most of the earlier comments that it depends on cost. I would, however, add that for me it depends on the cost-to-work ratio. I tend to do a lot of offline work when I am on long-haul flights like writing business cases, preparing spreadsheets, etc. Overall, it’s just a matter of finishing all the online work at the terminals and offline work onboard.

  16. I subscribe to gogo for all airlines. It helps pass
    The time and i can get ahead if email. Its nice
    When there is also power at the seat.

    I will pay.

  17. As I recall, AA was flying you for free in biz class. Did that include free internet? The one point not made in this string, if your company will pay, many will not care how much it costs, and if the individual pays, it has proven to be a much harder sell.

    1. austinflyguy – Nope. They offered to let me send them the receipt and they would reimburse me, but I’m not taking them up on that. I paid $5 on the way out for 2 hours and $19 on the way back for the whole flight.

  18. Yes, you are nuts. Don’t you Americans no nothing else but work, work, work? Talk, talk, talk, instead of leaving your seat neighbour in peace? Am I the only one who treasures the 11 hours in the air as one of the few times in life where you are away from it all, cannot and does not want to be reached, just have, if at all possible, peace and quiet? Goodness gratious me. Alas, I am looking forward to your vicious replies, something you do so very well.

    1. Easy to say, not so easy to do in practice, depending on what your job is. Like it or not, clients today expect you to be “available” at their whim and convenience. I have thankfully since liberated myself to a much less stressful position, but back in my old job, clients didn’t care about the out-of-office reply that stated I’d be unavailable for even a few hours while flying to a meeting. They needed the answer, now, which meant ponying up the $10 or whatever to GoGo to get online. An unfortunate byproduct of today’s electronic society, yes, but it is what it is, and ultimately, the customer needs to be kept happy.

  19. I am unclear, but would/could airlines give say elite travelers free Wi-Fi as a way to create ‘value’ to their best customers?

  20. Honestly it wont make a lot of difference to me.

    Usually I work offline when on long hauls as long as my battery allows me if no outlet, and then once I land I connect and send whatever I need to send…..

    it would be nice for urgent issues, but overall, I can live without wifi on long hauls

    I’d rather watch couple movies, eat, and sleep…. (especially if flying business class, but even with coach seat I would do the same)

  21. Yes, yes, yes. The plane is a favorite place to get work done and with wi-fi it’s that much easier. I used Lufthansa’s service a few months ago and loved it despite the occasional slowdown.

  22. Depends on the price. You mentioned $19 for the whole flight (while $12 for two hours–senseless paying for that) and at that price point I’d definitely pay for it.

  23. With or without WiFi, I’m not going to call you ‘nuts.’ As you and many others have noted, when a long flight must be considered work time, and work requires an active connection, t hen the cost does not matter. I look at long flights and down time, welcome the non-connected time and would not use the service even if it was priced at a single buck. Your mileage may vary and we each have different needs. My low-end Kindle (or a real book) provides all the entertainment that I need.

  24. I think it’s silly. Not enough people will use it/pay for it to make any money. Look at it this way, flights TO Europe are generally overnighters, and about 95% is passed out asleep after the meal til we get across the pond. On flights returning BACK to the US are typically during the day, so most people are awake. I could see people using it then, however price and service is going tobe the big factor. Younger folks don’t like paying for it. That’s a fact.

    Take in consideration the business traveler who hopefully is sitting in a business class seat. Most people “up front” choose to sleep (I know Cranky and a select few others can’t) and take advantage of the seat for sleeping purposes. Rarely do I see others awake.

    All in all, it’s nice to have for the handful of people that might want it, but I don’t think it will cake ant money to cover the cost to install it. Good topic idea!

  25. In a heartbeat I would rather that most, if not all, avionics be used for safety. Instead of capricious, ego-boosting wifi access. I hope there is never a day when a plane has some malfunction or can’t perform to its best ability because of someone’s lame necessity to contact the business or family. It isn’t always necessary.

    1. Robert, would you rather that airlines pull out the reading light, the flight attendant call button, the coffee maker, the ovens to heat your meals, and the fact your seats recline? These are all simply passenger comforts that aren’t really involved with flying the plane or keeping the passengers safe.

      All of this equipment, plus the direct entertainment equipment such as WiFi and Inflight video are tested by the FAA to ensure that they are safe in a number of scenarios that may occur on an airplane.

  26. Am I nuts? Yes, but that’s why I return & post comments like these.

    The use of Wi Fi is a personal decision plane & simple. Want to use it? Go ahead. If not, that’s OK too.

  27. I know I’m late to the party, but wanted to chime in. Back in my old job, I absolutely would have considered WiFi access a major plus when booking an international flight. Most of my trips were to India, which in many cases meant the better part of 2 days down the toilet first due to travel time, and then due to the time change. WiFi access would have been invaluable, regardless of cost. The company probably would have encouraged remaining connected since I was on official business anyway (and trust me, when you work for a big accounting firm, there are times when you have no choice but to keep working while traveling, so having the option would be very important).

    Today, though? Not sure it makes a difference. $19 for an 11-hour flight really isn’t that bad, but given that I no longer travel for business, and so any international travel would be for pleasure, would I really pay that just to goof around on Facebook for a while? I can entertain myself with the IFE or one of the games already on my computer/iPhone just as well.

  28. For those of us that travel from US to Europe, Asia or Africa I believe the availability is worth almost any cost within reason. Many years ago (probably 2005 or so), I was on a flight from SFO or LAX (don’t recall which) going to Singapore on Singapore Air. It was their inaugural flight using a form of Wifi (it stored your outgoing emails on a server on the plane & every 15 minutes or so they would send them and get your incoming emails). I fell in love then with on-board access and stayed up the entire trip doing email. I was hooked from then on but they discontinued it after 18 months or so. I would love to again have Wifi on international flights. Grover

  29. I had wifi on a turkish airlines flight from istanbul to shanghai. it worked until about half way through usbekistan and was wonderfully fast. they offered it for free during their testing period and I loved it greatly. I would absolutely go with them again, although the premium economy offering is another great incentive on that route. as far as cost is concerned, I’d say no at about 20 euros for a long-distance flight provided it didn’t die half way through the flight.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Cranky Flier