State of inflight Wi-Fi and free inflight messaging in North America and Europe, 2021.
Modern travellers want to stay connected when flying. And with 40% of flights in Europe and 80% in North America providing internet connectivity in the air, the chances are good that their next flight has inflight Wi-Fi with internet access.
On those connected aircraft, internet access options typically range from free inflight messaging (Alaska, Delta, American Airlines, Southwest, Air France, TAP Portugal) to 3€ for an hour of Mail and Surf (Lufthansa, Austrian) to $28 all you can eat global 24h inflight internet pass (Delta).
What is available and to whom, may also depend on your ticket class or frequent flyer status. Many European carriers provide premium class and gold tier passengers with limited free Wi-Fi access (Swiss, Lufthansa, SAS, Finnair, Aer Lingus, Icelandair, Air Canada).
JetBlue and Norwegian provide free inflight Wi-Fi to all their passengers, but without a performance guarantee — there is sporadic access over certain geographic areas as well as network congestion during peak times.
Sponsored inflight Wi-Fi access is available for premium subscribers of certain mobile operators (T-Mobile in US and EU) or credit cards (Visa Infinite) onboard airplanes equipped with GoGo inflight Wi-Fi (Alaska, Delta) or FlyNet Inmarsat Global Xpress GX Aviation inflight WLAN connectivity (Lufthansa, Austrian).
Free, sponsored or paid inflight Wi-Fi access needs to be activated in an onboard login portal after boarding every flight segment. In general, it’s a frustrating process which requires some tech savviness as well as effort — especially when a credit card must be fetched from the overhead bin.
Luckily, a new cost-conscious entrant — Flightful app — provides a simple alternative to enjoy free inflight messaging and email access across a large number of North American and European flights. Its free tier enables unlimited Signal Private Messenger, iMessage, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp text based messaging.
For only $5 per month (billed annually), the Flightful Premium subscription adds email access (Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, Apple Mail) and support for all other widely used messaging apps (Slack, Telegram, Skype, Viber, WeChat, Line, KakaoTalk, QQ, Discord and GroupMe). Unlimited internet access can be unlocked in Flightful for 5 minutes with just a $1.99 in-app purchase to sync social media feeds or to simply browse the web.
The Flightful app requires registration only once. After that it enables one-click inflight Wi-Fi connectivity onboard GoGo and FlyNet internet connected airplanes of Aer Lingus, AeroMexico, Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Lufthansa, United Airlines, United Express and Virgin Atlantic.