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Lifehacker's Complete Guide To Airline Wi-Fi In The US

Australia is still a wasteland when it comes to Wi-Fi on domestic flights, but if you find yourself on a flight within the US for business or pleasure, you can tweet at your friends and colleagues until their heads explode. Know your options before you land with our comprehensive guide to US on-plane Wi-Fi options.

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Which Airlines Offer Wi-Fi?

Some airlines offer Wi-Fi across their entire fleet or come very close. Here’s a list of those we know about and how often you can expect to find Wi-Fi on your plane when making a domestic flight in the US. Rates vary according to the length of the flight:

  • Virgin America: 100 per cent of flights. Costs $US4.95 to $US19.95 for mobile and $US11.00 – $US49.00 for computers.
  • AirTran Airways: 100 per cent of flights. Costs $US4.95 to $US19.95 for mobile and $US11.00 – $US49.00 for computers.
  • Delta: 65 per cent of flights (which means nearly every flight if you fly popular routes rather than more obscure locations). Costs $US4.95 to $US19.95 for mobile and $US11.00 – $US49.00 for computers.
  • Southwest: 2,320 flights. Costs $US8 per day of flying, regardless of the number of flights you take.
  • US Airways: About 90 per cent of flights. Costs $US4.95 to $US19.95 for mobile and $US11.00 – $US49.00 for computers.
  • United Airlines: On some Boeing 747-400, Airbus 319, and Airbus 320 planes (see the United page for a progress report). Costs $US4.95 to $US19.95 for mobile and $US11.00 – $US49.00 for computers.
  • American Airlines: In-flight Wi-Fi is available on all 767-200 and 737 aircrafts and most MD80 and 757 aircrafts. Costs $US4.95 to $US19.95 for mobile and $US11.00 – $US49.00 for computers.
  • Air Canada: All flights on an Airbus 319. Costs $US4.95 to $US19.95 for mobile and $US11.00 – $US49.00 for computers.
  • Alaska Air: Specific number unknown, but almost every flight has Wi-Fi. Costs $US4.95 to $US19.95 for mobile and $US11.00 – $US49.00 for computers.
  • Jet Blue: Limited access on some planes, full access on others. Availability isn’t clear at the moment, but some sources say Airbus 320 planes may offer access.

For official in-flight Wi-Fi information from the airlines, just click the linked names in the list above.

It’s also worth noting that if you fly between Los Angeles and San Francisco (LAX-SFO), New York and Los Angeles (JFK-LAX), or Atlanta and Orlando (ATL-MCO) you’re virtually guaranteed Wi-Fi on your flight. The two former flights are common options for Australian passengers (we’d argue Qantas is the best choice comfort-wise on JFK-LAX, but Wi-Fi isn’t an option there, alas).

How To Check If Your Flight Has Wi-Fi

You can find out if your flight has Wi-Fi a variety of ways; we like to use travel search sightsto uncover the data. While not accurate 100 per cent of the time, they’re as close as you’ll get without official word from the airline. Use these tools to search for your flight and they’ll tell you if you’ll have Wi-Fi:

  • SeatGuru: Designed for finding the best seat on a plane, but offers information about Wi-Fi and other amenities as an extension of the service.
  • Hipmunk: Designed primarily for finding flights but will identify those with Wi-Fi.
  • Routehappy: Designed for finding flights but will identify those with Wi-Fi.

Use any of those tools and you can figure out if your flight has Wi-Fi before you book it or depart.

Lifehacker’s Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.


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