In-flight wifi at a price not worth paying

Total flight time was 94 minutes. It was 10+ minutes after departure before the satellite sync’d up and it was even possible to pay. And I knew we’d have to shut down 15-20 minutes prior to landing. So basically $7/hour for service which might be decent. Oh, and trying to use the UA site for free as part of the flight didn’t actually work in my tests (I was trying to benchmark the speed to see if maybe I should consider paying). So, who’s buying??


I find it hard to believe too many are buying at $7/hour for the service. And since United doesn’t offer monthly or day-pass plans yet it also seems unlikely that the system got much usage on this flight.

Then again, I did pay $5 to use it on SFO-SAN a few weeks ago. That’s a higher hourly rate than this. I also only did it as it was the first time I’d been on a configured plane to try out the service. But they got my $5 for the novelty factor that day. Maybe a few others did the same on this flight last night.

What’s your threshold for buying in-flight internet service? Mine is typically pretty low, but I understand that I might be abnormal in that manner, too.

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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 routinely fly from TX to the NE, and have alternated between AA, UA and WN as my preferred carrier over the last few years. WN wins the wifi race, hands-down, in my book. Prices were reasonable (I think I routinely paid $8 for BWI-AUS, a ~3hr flight, 2-2.5hrs connectivity depending on direction). AA had a decetly priced monthly plan, but their per-flight offerings were high – I’ve paid as high as ~$17 on a DFW-EWR run.

    I expense the cost, so I’m not as price sensitive as if I were paying 100% out of pocket. That said, the $17 on AA seemed too high – I would usually only connect if there were some very time sensitive things I had to work on and get out during flight.

    WN has a great status perk related to wifi – free, on as many devices as you want/carry, for people at the A-List preferred level. I hit that last year, and must admit it was a nice perk and pushed me more towards WN than UA when both started offering direct AUS-EWR service. UA does that with an RJ with no wifi options, even if I were willing to pay. Due to shifting travel patterns, I did a status match with UA earlier this year, and can say I definitely miss the wifi.

    $3/hr seems like a deal; $4-5/hr is doable; $6-$7/hr verges on insult pricing.

  2. It’s free on Turkish. Slow, and erratic over Greenland but enough for some connection. Oh, did I mention flying Turkish is just generally a far nicer experience too?

    1. I’ve used it on Turkish. Agree completely. It was a reasonable experience for basic browsing and the rest of the in-flight experience was great. The part where I upgraded to Comfort Class for ~$300 certainly helped on that front.

  3. With DL, I usually pay around $14 for a transcon trip, last month it was for PIT-ATL-SFO, which is about 5.5-6 hours of internet usage time. That comes to around $2-2.50 per hour depending on routing.

    On PIT-LAX, WiFi on UA was $7.99 or $8.99, I will find out on Thursday night. For a flight that blocks at 5 hours in the air, the price is worth it to me only if the god-darn system would work. Last time I had to submit a refund request as anything outside of the WiFi landing page would not load. I did attempt to go to and left my Ipad on for 20 minutes to load the site, nothing loaded. IME when it works, the system crashes [or just completely disconnects] constantly and the FA has to reboot it every 30-60 minutes.

  4. I used LH flynet where the connection was stable & consistent over the entire flight. Bought 24hr plan for $20 & was worth it. It more than paid for itself for me to day trade the market 🙂

  5. It seems like they need to refine the pricing for sub-midcon flights. The TPACs at $16.99 for ~14 hours of flying is a pretty good deal, IMO.

  6. FAs couldn’t even figure out how to turn it on for my flight last night on an A320 from YVR-SFO. Also, I thought they were suppose to have streaming too, like WN. What gives UA?

  7. Paying by the hour just doesn’t work for me. At nearly $20 for transcon GoGo…that’s half the monthly fee for 4 to 5 hours of reasonable (at best) internet access.

    That being said…United’s extreme lack of internet caused me to status match over to Delta the past year, where it’s virtually 100%…just so I could stay connected and actually be productive while in the air. Even as a Million Miler on United…I just couldn’t put up with the lag in technology on their planes.

    So…to me (as a field exec…traveling 40+ weeks a year) it only makes sense if they offer monthly plans. I can get 39 or 49 bucks past the expense police once a month….but it just doesn’t make sense to pay 10-15 bucks multiple times a week…

    1. It’s shameful and pathetic that wifi isn’t already ubiquitous. If there’s any place where travel warriors really could use wifi, it’s in a metal tube that they are stuck in for hours at a time. For leisure travelers, wifi isn’t terribly important. Most want to get away from the ‘net while on vacation (most aren’t 20 somethings taking selfies or incessantly tweeting total nonsense all day long)

  8. The “free” United site access is limited to the mobile site, regardless of device. I tried routing to the full site and received an error. I haven’t used in-flight wifi on any carrier yet and don’t plan to any time soon. The only thing I’ve used UA wifi is for the landing page, which shows flight status (ie, where the plane is currently).

  9. Flew AUS-EWR this afternoon. $8.99. Good tail winds, so we had <3 hrs above 10,000ft, but overall still a good value for that flight length and price/hr.

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