People expect to have Wi-Fi access everywhere – on the ground, the sea, inside rooms, and of course 35,000 ft in the skies! But then airlines cannot afford to offer in-flight Wi-Fi service onboard their aircraft without one necessary factor – an in-flight Wi-Fi service provider.
Consequently, airlines are in a frenzy on how best to source the best lineup of in-flight Wi-Fi providers to make a distinction, deliver high-quality internet service, and satisfy passengers’ insatiable need for fast and reliable Wi-Fi.
In this regard, airlines seeking to invest in the in-flight Wi-Fi business have a selection of in-flight Wi-Fi service providers.
What Is An In-flight Wi-Fi Provider?
An In-flight Wi-Fi provider is an internet company that equips and services airplanes with internet connectivity via air-to-ground network and satellite technology. In turn, aircraft can offer in-flight Wi-Fi accessibility to passengers onboard.
In-flight Wi-Fi functions via two options – Air-to-ground (ATG) and Satellite technology.
- Air-to-ground (ATG) Wi-Fi
In the ATG model, antennae installed under the aeroplane send and receive transmissions to and fro on-ground cellular towers. Unfortunately, this model disconnects when travelling over a large expanse of waters or in remote parts.
- Satellite Technology
In this system, antennae positioned above the aeroplane’s fuselage transmits signals to and fro stationary Satellites orbiting the planet. The satellite model gave rise to the Ku-band and the faster Ka-band models.
On the downside, satellite-based Wi-Fi is more expensive to install and loses connectivity as the aeroplane flies out of range of the satellites.
Nevertheless, different airlines and their partnering service providers adopt specific technologies based on their resources and efficiency.
Prominent In-flight Wi-Fi Providers
The increase in the number of in-flight Wi-Fi service providers is notable as the aircraft industry increasingly develops. The United States alone has three popular Wi-Fi providers within its state. Other European countries also have a good number of these internet companies.
Gogo in-flight internet company, formerly called Aircell, is an in-flight Wi-Fi service provider based in Chicago. Since its founding in 1991, it has serviced over 10,000 aircraft with in-flight Wi-Fi and is one of the leading internet providers.
The notable American in-flight internet company officially debuted its air-to-ground Wi-Fi system on American Airlines in 2008. Since then, it has gathered momentum by adding more airlines to its repertoire. Gogo also delved into IFE services with its in-flight entertainment system, Gogo Vision®, debuting on American Airlines in 2011.
It launched its latest high-speed 2Ku satellite-based Wi-Fi on Aeroméxico in 2013. The next-generation technology employs two Ku-band aerodynamic-supportive antennae to enhance uploads and downloads separately.
Its aviation partners comprise world-leading airlines, including:
- American Airlines,
- Virgin America,
- AirTran Airways,
- US Airways,
- United Airlines,
- Alaska Airlines,
- Delta Air Lines,
- Japan Airlines,
- Air Canada,
- Virgin Atlantic,
- GOL Linhas Aereas,
- International Airlines Group (IAG),
- Air France,
- Virgin Australia, and
- British Airways.
Air travellers can connect to Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi in different ways. You can either connect when your flight is above 10,000ft altitude and pay using a credit card or pre-purchase before your flight by logging into your Gogo account on the website.
You can select any of these plans from the website:
|Wi-Fi Pass||Price (in USD)|
|1-hour access (consecutive access valid for 30 days after purchase)||$7.00|
|1-day plan (24 hours continuous access lasting for a year after purchase)||$19.00|
|1-month pass (monthly access on any partnering Gogo flight)||$49.95|
|1-year plan (yearly internet access on any partnering Gogo flight)||$599.00|
The Wi-Fi package is solely for domestic flights (except for Delta Air Lines monthly plan) across the United States, Mexico, and Canada.
Viasat is a high-speed satellite communications and internet company based in Carlsbad, California. Founded in 1986, it was instrumental in the launch of Connexion by Boeing in 2001.
One advantage of this company is that it owns its notably high-speed satellites and does not rely on others for satellite technology. It launched its ViaSat-1 Ka-band satellite in 2011 and was the highest-capacity satellite at the time.
The California-based satellite broadband company debuted its in-flight Wi-Fi service on JetBlue in December 2013 and has since increased its high-streaming satellite-based Wi-Fi services to other airlines.
Since then, it has included another Ka-band satellite, ViaSat-2, in 2017 with a plan of launching three new satellites, ViaSat-3, signed in 2019. The new ViaSat-3 promises to deliver more than the 1 Terabit (TB) capacity benchmark and have more global capacity than another satellite in the world.
Viasat’s partnering airlines are as follows:
- El Al Israel Airlines,
- United Airlines,
- KLM Airlines,
- Virgin America,
- Scandinavian Airlines,
- American Airlines,
- Finnair Airlines, and
- Delta Air Lines.
Many airlines that employ Viasat’s in-flight Wi-Fi services sometimes use them in partnership with other service providers, except for JetBlue. In any case, these airlines charge different prices for Wi-Fi plans.
JetBlue offers free Wi-Fi in all its fleets, while United has a monthly subscription plan of $49 for North and Central America flights and $69 for global routes.
Panasonic Avionics Corporation
Panasonic Avionics is a subsidiary of the Japanese electronics giant Panasonic Corporation. Founded in 1979, the California-based satellite internet company offers in-flight Wi-Fi and IFE services to different airlines worldwide.
Airlines offering its reputable Ku-band in-flight Wi-Fi service include:
- American Airlines, Lufthansa, United Airlines, WestJet, Air Berlin, Aer Lingus, Malindo Air, Alitalia, Gulf Air, Singapore Airlines, Middle East Airlines, Swiss International Air Lines
Check individual airlines for their different in-flight Wi-Fi plans.
Thales Group is a French transnational company with technology in defence and security, aerospace, digital identity and security, space, transportation, and market-specific solutions.
Its aircraft connectivity solutions offer both IFE services (AVANT®) and in-flight Wi-Fi internet access across different airlines using a combination of air-to-ground network and satellite technology from various satellite companies.
United Airlines is among the air carriers offering Thales in-flight Wi-Fi services onboard its aircraft.
Global Eagle Entertainment
Global Eagle Entertainment Inc. is a California-based leading full-service platform offering both IFE content and in-flight Wi-Fi connectivity for the airline industry. Global Eagle provides different air carriers and many travellers with in-flight Wi-Fi internet access, video content, digital commerce, and information services.
It acquired the satellite company Row 44 in 2012 and increased its operations and services using the Ku-band satellite technology.
Presently, it operates under the new brand name, Anuvu, after undergoing resale and rebranding in May 2021. Its aircraft clientele includes:
- Southwest Airlines,
- Turkish Airlines,
- Air France,
- FlyDubia, and
- LOT Polish Airlines.
Other notable in-flight Wi-Fi service providers are:
Challenges Facing In-flight Wi-Fi Providers
Air travellers’ grievance about in-flight Wi-Fi internet access is mainly towards the sometimes exorbitant costs, especially on international flights. While domestic flights offer cheaper Wi-Fi passes or even free (e. g. JetBlue), international flights are more expensive.
Though outfitting aircraft with in-flight Wi-Fi internet connectivity is a cost-intensive venture, readjustments and better investment are necessary to satisfy customers’ demands for free Wi-Fi on air.
Reliability involves both speed and efficiency. Many factors affect the reliability of in-flight Wi-Fi internet access. Factors such as restriction zones, weather conditions, cost of installation and maintenance, satellite switches, flying over remote areas, e. t.c.
In-flight Wi-Fi internet service providers regularly strive to deploy equipment that can effectively operate in these unfavourable conditions.
- Global Reach
Most domestic flights across the United States, Canada, and Mexico offer in-flight Wi-Fi services but are sketchy concerning international flights, especially when crossing the world’s oceans.
With better technology, service providers should overcome this challenge.
Internet access is a vital tool for airlines to attract more passengers. In other words, they are in constant search of better ways to provide in-flight Wi-Fi internet with higher speed and more coverage.
Most airlines do not depend on one in-flight Wi-Fi service provider but rather employ the services of multiple providers to ensure excellent service.
Different airlines offer different Wi-Fi subscription packages, while a few provide free internet Wi-Fi access to their passengers.
Nevertheless, with technological advancements and more effort from service providers, in-flight Wi-Fi internet will remain a permanent feature of aeroplanes.
Commonly Asked Questions
What Is In-flight Wi-Fi Service?
In-flight Wi-Fi service is a feature of aircraft which allows passengers to access the internet during flights.
Who Provides In-flight Internet?
In-flight Wi-Fi internet service providers like Gogo provide inflight internet onboard aircraft.
How Do I Get In-flight Wi-Fi?
To access in-flight Wi-Fi onboard Wi-Fi-equipped aircraft, you have to connect to the particular airline Wi-Fi network while onboard.