Meditate and watch the clouds float by, or follow-up on some of the 13,457 unread emails in your inbox? Flying can be a temporary escape from the chaos on-the-ground, but in this day and age, many flyers expect to have at least the opportunity to stay connected to Wi-Fi.
There are plenty of strategies to nabbing free Wi-Fi on flights, from freeloading on a friend’s Wi-Fi pass to using a card, like the American Express OPEN Business Platinum Card, that includes free Wi-Fi access on flights.
However, ten airlines around the world also offer free Wi-Fi to all passengers—yes, even in economy. These are JetBlue, Norwegian, Qatar, Emirates, China Eastern, Philippines Airlines, Qantas, Hainan, Nok Air, and Aer Lingus. Even more airlines provide free connections to international business and first class passengers.
The List of Airlines With Free Inflight Wi-Fi
1. JetBlue Airways
The only US airline to offer free Wi-Fi happens to also be the only airline in the world to provide unlimited, gate-to-gate service at every single seat. The entire fleet is equipped with “Fly-Fi,” in partnership with Amazon Prime. With the collab, JetBlue customers can stream Amazon Video and other content through Fly-Fi on personal devices.
JetBlue promises download speeds of up to 20 Mbps, way faster than most other airlines. One caveat is that Fly-Fi does not work over open water, only over land, so don’t plan on firing off critical emails on your approach into Barbados.
2. Norwegian Air Shuttle
While Norwegian Airlines might be synonymous with low-cost, they surprisingly offer unlimited free Wi-Fi on their shorter intra-European and also U.S. to Caribbean flights. It is noteworthy that Norwegian’s transatlantic flights do not offer Wi-Fi, paid or not, though the airline is engaging in plans to install free Wi-Fi fleetwide, eventually.
Norwegian has become a big player in the transatlantic sector, driving down the cost of flights across the Atlantic. Just this week, Norwegian overtook British Airways carrying more transatlantic passengers to and from New York City than any other foreign carrier.
3. Qatar Airways
Qatar Airways is known for their amazing business class products including the highly-regarded QSuites, but there’s a lot less chatter about the airline’s economy experience. Everyone onboard, including those in back, get 15 minutes of free Wi-Fi or 10 MB of data, whichever comes first. Pittance.
Qatar’s Wi-Fi service is provided by OnAir—a provider that is known for oppressive data caps and expensive, slow service.
Once you use up your little 10 MB taste, there are several tiered data options to choose. None are enough to comfortably surf without fear of quickly reaching a cap.
Thankfully, Qatar is also testing out a new Wi-Fi service dubbed “Super Wi-Fi” onboard select Boeing 777-300’s. An entire hour is free on these flights.
4. Emirates Airline
Another Middle Eastern airline makes the list. Emirates offers 20 MB of free Wi-Fi on all flights. Until last year, an additional 500 MB was just an extra $1. That’s since changed, but pricing is still reasonable beyond the 20 MB. However, the issue isn’t with availability so much as speed. Emirates is known for slow, almost unusable Wi-Fi speeds. Your mileage may vary.
5. China Eastern
This one comes with a bit of an asterisk, as China Eastern’s free Wi-Fi policy is a bit convoluted. Registration is done in advance online, is limited to 100 passengers per flight, and is subject to China’s “Great Firewall,” blocking most social media sites and Google.
China Eastern has said its free Wi-Fi has been in “test phase” on their website for at least the last two years so who knows when they’ll pull the plug. And keep in mind mobile phones (even if in airplane mode) are sometimes not allowed to be used onboard Chinese airlines, including China Eastern.
6. Philippines Airlines
Philippines Airlines provides 30 minutes of Wi-Fi or 15 MB, whichever comes first to all of their customers. However, it is only available on select international aircraft, including most A330s, 777-300s, and all of their forthcoming A350s which will be serving Manila to London and Manila to New York routes.
Qantas has several dozen domestically configured 737s and A330s with free Wi-Fi for all. They will continue to expand their Wi-Fi reach in the coming years with international flights expected to have Wi-Fi by 2021.
8. Hainan Airlines
As of March 2018, mainland Chinese carrier Hainan offered 130 MB of free Wi-Fi for all customers onboard their 17 787-9’s, accounting for 30% of the airline’s wide-body fleet (and most flights to the United States).
9. Nok Air
Adorable Thai low-cost airline Nok Air, based out of Bangkok flying to 25 destinations, offers free unlimited Wi-Fi on all of their flights.
10. Aer Lingus (Coming Soon)
Aer Lingus will become the first European airline to offer complimentary Wi-Fi to all passengers on transatlantic flights when it takes delivery of its first Airbus A321LR jets in Spring 2019, 20 MB of Wi-Fi will be free.
While some airlines are generously offering the full capability of Wi-Fi, others have taken a different approach by providing free messaging on certain apps. These freebie options assume you either have an iPhone, Facebook’s Messenger, or WhatsApp (and friends to talk to). Messaging services are free on:
- Alaska Airlines
The list of airlines that offer Wi-Fi for everyone onboard surprised me a bit. It’s an eclectic mix of carriers. JetBlue still takes the reigns as the most user-friendly free Wi-Fi service with zero restrictions and departure gate to arrival gate usability.
Make no mistake, most airlines charge for Wi-Fi. The equipment has historically been expensive and run by a third party. However, new technology is making it more affordable for airlines, which view it as a competitive advantage. Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian has spouted ambition to make Wi-Fi free on every flight shortly. In the coming years, we’ll see more airlines offer free Wi-Fi and messaging services to customers.
I don’t know of anywhere else besides in an airplane that you can’t get free Wi-Fi. – Delta CEO Ed Bastian
As for myself, I kind of miss the days before Wi-Fi existed at 35,000 feet. You’ll most likely find me disconnected, freeing up precious bandwidth for everyone else onboard.
Are there any other airlines you know of that offer free Wi-Fi in economy?