Wi-Fi Onboard

IMG_6788I finally had my first opportunity to try out an in-flight Internet service this morning on my Delta flight from New York to Tampa.  I know that I may be late to the game on this front, but I don’t fly many routes or carriers that have had the service up to this point (mostly American Airlines transcons and now the Delta MD88s) so I was downright giddy when I saw the decal on the fuselage as we came down the jetway this morning.

Yes, I paid the $9.95 for my approximately 1:45 of online time.  I still think that the price is too high for the short-haul flights such as this one and I’d like to see something like a monthly pass to make it more affordable for the very frequent traveler. 

Plus, the performance seems rather intermittent.  Right after takeoff it was fine.  Then there was a 15 minute window where speeds were rather awful – <100Kbit, comparable to a 2G cell phone – but now I’m back up to 3G/EvDO speeds (1.8Mbit) and web sites are loading up quite nicely.  I’ve even been able to connect to a couple remote desktop connections to do some work on the flight this morning.  It wasn’t fast enough that I’d want to work that way all the time, but it was nice to get that task completed during the flight.  Nothing like paying for the trip while on the flight.

At this point I’d have to say that there is almost zero chance that I’d pay for it again on a short-haul flight unless I had something truly critical to get done.  On a long-haul there is a slightly better chance, but the spotty performance worries me.  When it is running at full speed it is really good.  But when it is running slowly the frustration factor would make me completely bitter that I spent the money.



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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. I think they should price it proportional to the length of the flight. Maybe something like $3 per hour. And maybe even offer fixed length service (30 mins/$2) if you really just need to fire off a few quick emails or check on your next flight’s status or ….

  2. They do have a tiered pricing model – flights over 3 hours are $13 instead of $10. That doesn’t help the person who only wants 5 minutes of access, but it is a slight nod to the difference in flight length.

    The pricins is pretty tough to swallow in most cases. Even if it worked perfectly I’m not sure it would be worthwhile. On many of the Delta flights it will be competing with TV for users. If I had to choose between paying for this internet service and paying for TV (which Continenetal will charge for and for which Delta is rumored to be considering charging for), I’ll just read my book.

  3. Seth,

    I like your idea about monthly subscription plans. I’d be interested in that type of service given I travel weekly.

    Also, I’m glad you pointed out the inconsistency in bandwidth problem. If that turns out to be the norm, the service probably won’t be successful. I’m willing to pay for service, even if the fee is on the high side, but I expect rock-solid delivery and no bandwidth fluctuation that makes me regret the fee.

    Thanks for posting the udpates and for all of your items on this blog. It is truly appreciated and enjoyed@

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