The availability of Wifi during a flight is not new. It’s been around a good 5 – 8 years but in Canada, the two major airlines, Westjet and Air Canada, have only been offering it since 2014 and that, only on domestic flights. This was something I wasn’t aware of since I haven’t flown either of them inside Canada in that time frame. I read today that Air Canada is going to offer wifi via satellite in the fall on their international wide body aircraft. You might know I’d miss it by 6 months!
What the press release doesn’t tell you is how much it will cost because you know damn well they aren’t going to give you something for free. Air Canada has been hitting customers with fees for everything it seems, more and more and I’m sure most of the other airlines are on the same bandwagon. Even though the cost of fuel has gone down, the “fuel surcharge” hasn’t gone away. They just call it “surcharge” now which is just a vile money grab. A ticket to the UK more than doubles from the base flight fare due to high landing costs at Heathrow and those damn surcharges. But I digress.
Since I wouldn’t expect the wifi onboard to be free, I’m curious what the charges will be. According to this CBC article, the wifi service on Air Canada uses the Gogo network service and the costs seem to be $5 an hour and $16 for a full day pass (which you can buy on their website) which is useful if you’re transferring to another flight. Westjet has their own service, Westjet Connect, and they’re charging a stinging $5 per HALF hour but, more reasonably, $8 for a flight pass. But Westjet Connect is also part of their inflight entertainment system, using a free Westjet app or a web browser on a laptop, and if you use it for that, it’s free, it’s only the internet part that costs you.
From where I live, aside from a few short regional hops where there’s barely time to boot up the device anyway, most flights are going to be a minimum 90 minutes. I expect AC will charge you two full hours even if the flight is less than that. Westjet’s flight pass seems like a good deal, especially if you’re going to take their new summer non-stop service from Halifax to Vancouver! That’s about a 6 hour flight, by the way. To get to Vancouver from Halifax on Air Canada there’s at least one stop, Toronto or possibly Calgary if you’re lucky, then another jump to the west coast. The day pass would be a nice thing to have.
Now they’re going to have it on international flights. I’ve waited all these years of being at the mercy of their in flight entertainment system, frustrated by headphones or the jack that doesn’t work quite right, interruptions on the screen every time there’s any announcement. Now the frequency of my international flights may be reduced just when the ways of killing time on a long flight are getting more interesting! I wonder if the fees will be higher, though, since it’s not the ground to air Gogo system but relying on satellite. There’s nothing I can find on Air Canada’s site yet but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s higher. Still, I’m sure people will pay it. I might not be likely to on an overnight flight unless I need to contact someone for a flight delay, that sort of thing, but I probably would for a daytime flight.
There’s no word if Westjet will follow suit. They have been venturing across the ocean to the British Isles recently offering spring to autumn service to Gatwick, Dublin and, I think, Glasgow which is their newest destination. As much as I prefer Air Canada mainly because I’m a larger person and there’s a bit more room on the wide body aircraft, a direct flight to Glasgow or Vancouver is tempting and I think Westjet is part of the same rewards system as British Airways to which I belong (OneWorld) as opposed to Air Canada’s Star Alliance membership.
Even now, you can get wifi in most airports. Some are free, some are not. There’s free wifi on a lot of transportation these days though Canadian transportation still has a little way to go. Via Rail does provide it for free on many of its trains though on one long distance service, it’s only in some areas of the train. “the cars nearest the dining car” is how they put it, according to their website. I guess that’s where the hub is!
In the UK, we’ve taken advantage of free wifi on Virgin trains albeit in the first class car. It’s available in the whole train, but it’s pay as you go in regular class. In the US, it was free on the airport bus into New York. I suppose ground transportation makes it easier but even so, it’s still offered free with the price of your ticket. Since the price of airline tickets with the associated charges are so high now, why not offer it as another optional fee when you book?
With many planes now providing USB ports as well as electrical outlets and with wifi becoming more common, I guess flying won’t be quite so dull in future. Now if we could just have more comfortable seats and better food….