For some of us, traveling by plane is a perfect excuse to disconnect for a bit, but for others, in-flight Wi-Fi is a near necessity. Fortunately, a growing number of flights offer on-board Wi-Fi networks that'll let you get online, and in some cases, you can even stream whatever you want via your preferred app and device. Even better, we're starting to see a growing number of airlines offering free Wi-Fi perks in 2023 as they continue to try and rebound from the pandemic as well as recent scheduling snafus.
In most cases, in-flight Wi-Fi comes by way of a satellite connection between the airline's fleet and a third-party internet provider like Gogo or Viasat. You shouldn't expect fast speeds by any stretch, and you won't be able to send or receive texts over cellular airwaves, but if you're just looking to send a few quick emails or check your Twitter feed, in-flight Wi-Fi should be able to get the job done.
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Prices and terms vary from airline to airline (and in some cases, from flight to flight), so it isn't always easy to know if your flight will offer Wi-Fi or how much it'll cost before you book. That's where this post comes in. Below, we've listed the top 10 airlines in the US and detailed their respective Wi-Fi offerings to help you keep things straight as you book your next trip. If policies change, we'll update this rundown accordingly. (For more travel tips, check out 12 essential items to remember to pack on your next trip, and how to save money on travel despite rising flight costs.)
- Alaska Airlines
- Allegiant Air
- American Airlines
- Frontier Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Spirit Airlines
Best Internet Providers of 2023
In-flight Wi-Fi: Yes, on most flights
Wi-Fi cost: Usually $8, sometimes as high as $25
Streaming video: Yes on flights equipped for "Streaming-Fast Wi-Fi," no on flights equipped for "Basic Wi-Fi"
Texting: Yes, no purchase necessary (iMessage, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp only, no SMS)
"On most flights, our streaming-fast satellite Wi-Fi is available for only $8," reads the Alaska Airlines in-flight Wi-Fi FAQ page. The site adds that some of the airline's shorter flights -- specifically those using select 737-9 MAX aircraft or all Q400 aircraft -- are not equipped with an onboard internet system yet. Alaska Airlines also cautions passengers about the possibility of brief outages in the satellite signal midflight, and adds that satellite Wi-Fi is not available above the Arctic Circle in Alaska, or when flying over certain regions of New Mexico.
In addition, Alaska Airlines offers a catalog of free in-flight movies and TV shows, as well as free texting to all passengers connected to the in-flight Wi-Fi network, even those that aren't paying for full web access. However, your app options are limited to iMessage, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. SMS messages aren't supported, nor can you send photos or videos. Additionally, Alaska Airlines doesn't allow passengers to make voice or video calls via apps like FaceTime or Zoom.
The company claims that 90% of its fleet offers satellite Wi-Fi, with a goal of hitting 100% sometime in the early part of this year. The airline also differentiates between "Streaming-Fast Wi-Fi" that allows passengers to stream, chat and browse the web, and "Basic Wi-Fi" that doesn't support streaming or uploading large attachments. Here's the list of aircraft that support the faster, first option:
- All Boeing 737 Max aircraft
- All Boeing 737-900ER aircraft
- Nearly all Boeing 737-900 aircraft
- Most Boeing 737-800 aircraft
- All Airbus aircraft
And here's the list of aircraft offering slower, Basic Wi-Fi, which doesn't allow for streaming:
- All Embraer E175 aircraft
- All Boeing 737-700 aircraft
- Select Boeing 737-800 and one 737-900 aircraft
Alaska Airlines also notes that the price of Basic Wi-Fi on Boeing 737s varies and can cost up to $25. Monthly and yearly internet subscriptions are also available for frequent travelers. Meanwhile, T-Mobile in-flight Wi-Fi, a perk for select T-Mobile and Sprint mobile subscribers, is also an option on some Alaska Airlines flights.
Wi-Fi isn't available on any Allegiant flight, the airline notes on its FAQ page for in-flight services, nor does Allegiant offer its own catalog of movies and television shows for in-flight entertainment. You can get two beers, two snacks, and a single-serve meat-and-cheese tray for $28, though, so you've got that going for you.
In-flight Wi-Fi:Yes, on select domestic flights
Wi-Fi cost:"As little as $10"
Streaming video: Yes
Texting:Yes (no SMS)
American Airlines touts the availability of "upgraded, high-speed Wi-Fi" on its travel info site, but only on select domestic flights. You'll need to check your flight status to see if Wi-Fi comes included with your trip -- if it is, you'll be able to pay a fee to connect and browse the web, check emails and send messages, or stream video from services like Netflix, Hulu and HBO Max.
That fee can vary from flight to flight, but American writes that it's available on most routes starting at $10. AAdvantage members can also purchase a Wi-Fi subscription plan that costs $50 per month for a single device, or $60 per month for two devices.
Certain Delta flights also support T-Mobile in-flight Wi-Fi, a perk that lets select T-Mobile and Sprint subscribers connect in the air for unlimited texting, as well as streaming and browsing capabilities on international and domestic flights.
Wi-Fi cost:Free for SkyMiles members, $10 for non-members
Streaming video: Yes
Texting: Yes (iMessage, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp only)
With service provided by Viasat and Intelsat, Delta is currently in the process of rolling out free in-flight satellite Wi-Fi for SkyMiles members, and the service is expected to be available on all domestic Delta flights by the end of 2023. For now, it's only available on Boeing 737 and 757 class aircraft; the fleet's Airbus A319, A320 and A321 class aircraft are expected to come online by December 30.
If you aren't a SkyMiles member, you can still access Delta's in-flight Wi-Fi, but you'll need to pay a $10 fee. Daily and monthly Wi-Fi subscriptions are available for frequent flyers, and some Delta flights also support T-Mobile in-flight Wi-Fi, a perk for select T-Mobile and Sprint subscribers that includes unlimited free texting, as well as browsing and streaming with select plans.
Frontier doesn't offer in-flight Wi-Fi or on-demand entertainment on any of its flights. That also means that there's no way to send texts while in the air on a Frontier flight.
"The lack of these services and electrical outlets on our flights means cost savings, and the lowest fares possible can be passed on to our customers," the company's in-flight FAQ page reads.
In-flight Wi-Fi:Not yet
In 2022, Hawaiian Airlines struck a deal with Elon Musk's Starlink satellite internet service to begin offering free in-flight Wi-Fi as soon as this year. However, service doesn't appear to be live just yet, so for now, passengers are not able to browse the web while in flight.
That said, the company's A321neo aircraft do come equipped with onboard Wi-Fi networks that passengers can use to stream a selection of movies and TV shows to their personal device. To access that catalog, you'll need to download the free Hawaiian Airlines app to your Android or iOS device.
Streaming video: Yes
Texting:Yes (no SMS)
JetBlue bills itself as the only major airline to offer, "free, high-speed Wi-Fi at every seat, on every plane." The in-flight satellite service is provided by Viasat, and passengers can use it to browse the web, send messages and emails or stream video.
Wi-Fi cost:$8 per device
Streaming video: No (movies and TV shows are available on-demand free of charge, including select live TV channels)
Texting:Yes, no purchase necessary (iMessage and WhatApp only, no SMS)
Not all of Southwest's aircraft are outfitted with Wi-Fi networks, but those that are offer passengers free access to movies and on-demand TV shows, including select live programming, as well as free music through iHeartRadio and free texting via iMessage or WhatsApp.
Passengers can pay $8 per device for full web access, which adds in browsing, but due to bandwidth constraints, they won't be able to stream video from Netflix, Hulu or other services, nor will they be able to use video-conferencing software like Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
Wi-Fi cost:$3 to browse/text, $6 to stream
Streaming video: Yes
Spirit promises to offer the fastest in-flight Wi-Fi of any airline based in the US, but don't get too excited -- speeds top out at about 7 to 10Mbps, which is decent by in-flight standards but still much slower than what you're probably used to on the ground. The company adds that further upgrades to its onboard networks are coming in 2023, including gate-to-gate coverage, multidevice plans, and support for Google Pay and Apple Pay.
Browsing and sending messages only requires a $3 fee per device, but you'll need to make that $6 if you want a connection that's fast enough to stream video. Wi-Fi is available across most of Spirit's fleet, including all of its Airbus A320 and A321 crafts, though the company is still rolling out connectivity to Airbus A319 craft. Spirit's onboard Wi-Fi is provided by Thales.
Wi-Fi cost:$8 (or 1,600 miles) for MileagePlus members, $10 for non-members
Streaming video: Sometimes
United offers in-flight Wi-Fi for most North American flights by way of four separate providers: Gogo, Panasonic, Thales and Viasat. In most cases, the cost to connect is $8 (or 1,600 miles) for MileagePlus members and $10 for everyone else, though United cautions that those prices could be higher on some of its longer international flights. Once connected, you'll be able to browse the web and send messages via supported apps, including iMessage, WhatsApp and Messages by Google.
Most flights won't allow you to stream video directly from sites like YouTube and Netflix, so instead, you'll have to watch movies and TV shows from your flight's free onboard entertainment catalog. However, you can stream video on select Airbus 319 and Boeing 737 aircraft within United's fleet, including the 737 MAX 8 and 9 and Boeing 757-300s.
Certain United flights also support T-Mobile in-flight Wi-Fi, a perk for T-Mobile Magenta and Magenta Max subscribers, as well as select Sprint subscribers. Eligible subscribers can connect on-board for unlimited texting and limited browsing, with unlimited streaming and browsing for Magenta Max subscribers.
For more, check out our tested picks for the best Wi-Fi routers, and how to tell if your router is in the wrong spot.