Traveling on an airplane is one of the few places on (or above) earth where we find ourselves without connectivity. For the most part, we can see a map of the world, some Will Smith movies and an ETA to our destination, but wifi is yet to hit it's stride. In the last year, airlines have major made major strides in creating fast, flexible, streaming quality wifi, some even offer it for free...
Turkish airlines is perhaps the most generous of all carriers when it comes to posting those important Instagram pictures... or expense reports. On the airline's flagship Boeing 777 fleet, all customers receive complimentary Wifi Access, including transatlantic flights. The only question is, if everyone has wifi, how fast will the wifi be?
JetBlue has always pushed the tech boundaries of flight. I remember about 15 years ago, being amazed by an advertisement that the airline streamed DirectTV (satellite) on all of it's flights. Needless to say as a teenager I was sold. The airline now offers one of the fastest internet connections, allowing you to stream Netflix or whatever you wish, all for free.
Emirates offer a very cool try before you buy, giving every passenger 10MB of free data, with an option to grab more with rates starting at just a buck. It's the perfect solution for checking email or updating people mid flight without being too connected. There are even options for faster connections...
Having robust internet only works if you have a strong customer base. Finnair have launched one of the most logical programs for in flight wifi, offering complimentary access on it's new A350's to business class customers and elite frequent flyer members. It's nice to see an airline recognizing that loyalty is as important as the class of service.
While most discount carriers continue to chop away at everything but the wings, Norwegian proudly offer complimentary wifi on all European, and US to Caribbean flights. No guesses on Netflix streaming, but the service allows you to stream any of their in flight content on your own devices, just in case the tiny screen isn't enough for you.
In summary, the Scandinavians recognize loyalty well, at least with internet connections on airplanes. Icelandair offers free access to in flight wifi on all flights to business class and elite loyalty club members. If only the airline joined an alliance and allowed other elites the same...
Hong Kong Airlines
Well, if you believe in a name, you know where to find free wifi for all customers. Hong Kong Airlines, the quasi budget, quasi luxury carrier with obscure schedules and routes throughout Asia and Pacific offers comp'd wifi on all international flights, wheels up to wheels down.
From Dublin with love, AerLingus offers customers enjoying their brand new business class seats complimentary wifi, on all international A330 flights. Unfortunately, unlike their more generous neighbors to the northeast, there's no freebies for elite members.
Southwest, the Ryanair of America offers it's most elite members of the A List Preferred Club complimentary wifi on all flights, a fantastic benefit. If you're going to spend 50 segments a year in narrow economy seats, you'll need the complimentary wifi to tweet out your pain!
In theory, I love that airlines offer free wifi. It's a great perk and allows for hugely important, or totally useless productivity. The problem with complimentary wifi is that bandwidth on a plane is limited, and handing out a connection to everyone often leads to slower speeds. That is, until Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg and The Google boys finish their fight for wifi dominance...