For some airline passengers, in-flight Wi-Fi is as important as legroom, reclining seats and access to the bathroom. Those travelers have some good news now: Travelers on U.S. airlines have a chance of getting in-flight Wi-Fi on 66 percent of all flight miles they fly, according to a new report that documents the state of in-flight Wi-Fi by Routehappy. Worldwide, that number drops to 24 percent. Overall, 52 airlines worldwide offer some in-flight Wi-Fi in most regions of the globe.
“Wi-Fi is one of the most sought-after new amenities fliers want to access on their flights, and there has been significant investment by airlines since our last report,” said Routehappy CEO Robert Albert. “Coverage is starting to be meaningful on flights worldwide, along with a wide variety of speeds, coverage availability and pricing models, including free of charge. ”
Of the major U.S. airlines, Delta came out on top, according to Routehappy, for offering “the most flights and flight miles with Wi-Fi of all airlines, by far.” More than 3,500 of its flights are equipped with Wi-Fi; it has added 503 flights over the last 18 months. In second place was American Airlines, with nearly 3,000 flights outfitted with Wi-Fi.
But United Airlines was the leader in offering Wi-Fi on international flights -- and for offering the “best” Wi-Fi: high-bandwidth systems that can handle more data. It has also been the most aggressive in adding Wi-Fi, boasting a 179 percent increase in Wi-Fi-equipped flights in the last 18 months. United was also the leader among the three largest carriers in offering both Wi-Fi and in-seat power outlets.
Of course, the quality of in-flight Wi-Fi still has a long way to go, as Nick Bilton noted recently in the New York Times. It’s so slow and unreliable that renaming in-flight Wi-Fi “Airplane Dial-Up” would be “unfair to dial-up,” he wrote. Routehappy’s report corroborates Bilton’s assessment: Only 1 percent of U.S. flights offer the best quality high-bandwidth systems that were introduced to the air in 2014.
Nine international airlines offer a “very good” chance of Wi-Fi on more than 20 percent of their international flights, reported Routehappy: Japan, Emirates, Aeroflot, Iberia, Lufthansa, Singapore, Etihad, Norwegian and Icelandair. On the latter two, that number went up to 80 percent.