Breaking down which airlines have the best in-flight Wi-Fi and how to connect for free
Connecting to Wi-Fi on Airplanes
There was a time when the best in-flight entertainment was a good novel. But times have changed. Even the best selection of in-flight movies and games pales in comparison to the vast promise of having the world wide web at your fingertips at 30,000 feet.
Getting Wi-Fi on your plane is essential for all business people, digital nomads, and really anyone who wants to have a pleasant flight. You can get some work done, post a pic of your in-flight meal on Insta, or just kick back and watch the next episode of Top Chef.
Here’s everything you need to know about choosing the best airlines for in-flight Wi-Fi and how you can connect for free.
How to connect to in-flight Wi-Fi on airplanes
Every airline has a different set of instructions for connecting to on-board Wi-Fi internet. However, in almost every case the instructions for connecting to the Wi-Fi network once you're on the plane will look something like this.
To connect to in-flight Wi-Fi, just follow these steps:
- Put your phone in airplane mode.
- Go to your Wi-Fi settings and look for a network. The name will probably be something like aainflight.com or DeltaWiFi.com.
- Connect to the network.
- If you’re not automatically redirected to a browser, open one. Go to the website of the airline you’re flying with and follow the instructions to turn on in-flight internet.
The Wi-Fi may not be available on some flights until you reach cruising altitude. If you don’t see a Wi-Fi network on your device, ask the flight staff if there is Wi-Fi onboard.
If you’re on an eligible T-Mobile wireless plan, you may be able to get free in-flight Wi-Fi on Alaska, American, United, and Delta Airlines flights. Once you’re connected to the Wi-Fi network and you’ve opened your browser, look for a T-Mobile branded feature called “In-Flight Connection On Us!”
Now that you know how to connect to onboard Wi-Fi, let’s take a deeper dive into how different airlines rank in terms of their onboard internet pricing and performance.
Connecting to Wi-Fi on different airlines
Most airlines have in-flight Wi-Fi on the majority of their flights. However, not all Wi-Fi on airplanes is the same.
Here’s a handy chart that breaks down the onboard Wi-Fi pricing and features from many major U.S. airlines so you can know which airline to choose when you’re booking your next workcation.
|JetBlue||Every flight||Free for all customers||High-speed, access to streaming||Speeds top out at 10Mbps|
|American Airlines||Most flights||$10+ per flight||Free access to HBO, Netflix, and more||Decent speeds with full access to sites|
|Spirit||Every flight||$3.99–$6.99||Very fast speeds||Must pay for pricier tier for streaming speeds|
|Delta||Most flights||Free for all customers||Good speeds, full access to browsing and streaming||None|
|Alaska Airlines||Most flights||$8 per flight||Browsing and streaming possible||Pricier basic Wi-Fi on some flights|
|Hawaiian Airlines||Limited (expanding in 2024)||Free for all customers||High-speed for browsing and streaming||Not available on most flights still|
|Southwest||Most flights||$8 per flight||Speed varies depending on flight||Some sites/apps are blocked|
|United||Most flights||$8 per flight||High speeds, free to use messaging apps||Many streaming services blocked|
Is in-flight Wi-Fi safe to use?
Wi-Fi on airplanes is generally very safe to use. Most in-flight internet is run by a large and reputable company, like Gogo and Viasat. Plus, you’ll only be sharing a network with the people sitting around you on the same flight.
However, even though you’re at 30,000 feet, you are still connected to the web, which means there are some basic online safety precautions that you should follow.
- Consider purchasing a virtual private network (VPN). With a VPN, you can browse the web anonymously and keep away pesky trackers and hackers who want to steal your data (or keep an eye on what you do online). Most VPNs also have other features, like anti-malware protection.
- Don’t provide any sensitive information, even on trusted sites. Whenever you’re on a public network, avoid entering information like a bank account number or a social security number. Wait till you get back home to do any important paperwork or banking.
- Always update your devices and software. If your laptop, phone, tablet, or other device has an old version of its operating system or if you’re using outdated apps, then you’re putting yourself at risk—especially on a public network.
How to get free in-flight Wi-Fi internet
While some airlines, like Delta and JetBlue, have taken the step of making in-flight Wi-Fi free and available to all fliers, most companies charge for high speed internet (even if they do let you text and use messenger apps for free).
So, how can you get around these pesky fees when you’re flying and need to check your email (or kill time with a little PUBG Mobile). Here are a few tricks.
How to get free Wi-Fi on an airplane
- Get a credit card: Yes, that’s right. A credit card. Many cards have perks for fliers or let you purchase in-flight goods and services (like Wi-Fi) with your points. Check out cards like the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard or the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card. Our friends over at The Penny Hoarder have a roundup of the best airline credit cards to get.
- Upgrade to business or first class: Easier said than done, right? But it might be worth spending more to get more. Not only will you get free Wi-Fi on most flights, but you’ll also get more legroom and better concessions.
- Sign up for T-Mobile: T-Mobile’s Magenta and Magenta MAX plans come with tons of great benefits, including free in-flight Wi-Fi with many airlines, like Delta and United.
- Choose an airline with free Wi-Fi: When you’re comparing flights for your next trip, be sure to calculate the price you’ll have to pay for on-board Wi-Fi. If the difference in price isn’t too drastic, you might want to go with Delta or JetBlue.
That covers all of the basics of connecting to Wi-Fi on airplanes. But we figure you still have some lingering questions, which is why we wrote this neat little FAQ section. No need to thank us.
Yes. Major airlines use reputable companies to provide Wi-Fi to their passengers. That said, you should always take certain precautions on a public network, even when you’re flying.
Don’t input important information—like banking details or social security numbers—when you’re browsing and always make sure to use the most up-to-date versions of apps and operating systems.
Yes, certain airlines provide free Wi-Fi for passengers, including Delta and JetBlue. Many other airlines let you text and use messenger apps for free, but charge for higher-speed Wi-Fi that lets you stream shows and play games.
You can also get free in-flight Wi-Fi with certain credit cards and mobile plans (check out T-Mobile’s Magenta plan for this perk).
Delta and JetBlue offer free Wi-Fi on almost all of their flights, including international ones. Other airlines will often have Wi-Fi available, but it can cost $8 to $10 or more to use.