Wi-Fi in the Sky

I notice more and more airlines are allowing wi-fi service on board the flight. That’s pretty cool. You won’t be able to access it until the plane rises over about 10,000 feet or close to that, so you can’t go online on the way up or down but hey, on a long flight it’s especially handy.

I remember the old days when you couldn’t use anything electronic. Then you could, but only after the seat belt sign went off but you still had to have things like phones in “airplane” mode, that is, so it isn’t getting a signal. I don’t know if that’s still the case with these wi-fi enabled planes. If you are allowed to get a wi-fi signal, wouldn’t you be able to use your phone? (if you could get a phone signal, that is) Actually, I hope you still can’t use the phone. Haven’t you noticed that when people are on mobile phones, they speak a lot louder? Dozens of people in an enclosed space shouting on their phone would be utter cacaphony.

Anyway. Wi-fi. Don’t everyone jump up and down and cheer just yet. It’s available but it’s not free. Of course it’s not. I discovered this week that Air Canada Rouge (the no-frills category) is installing Wi-Fi on some of their jets starting this summer.You actually buy a pass from Gogo. A one hour pass is $7 which is next to useless, really. If you’re on a short flight, you’re barely up in the air and down again. The 24 hour pass is $19 which isn’t too bad but if there are two or more of you in your group and you all want to use it at the same time, that’s one per person. Add to the fact that, if you aren’t flying in Premium, you’ll have to buy any food you want (Canada, U.S. flights). Pricey.

Still, it’s available and it will be appealling, especially for long flights. Rouge does have an onboard entertainment system that they stream over smart devices via the Air Canada app. You can rent an iPad for $10 if you don’t have something that will pick up the streaming service. Premium passengers get the iPads for free. We don’t have a tablet but we have our phones. I don’t think there’s a laptop-compatible app (unless you have a Chromebook or possibly a Mac Air).

I don’t know how good their streaming service is, probably fairly decent, so there should be enough there to keep you occupied without a connection to the internet. Once the novelty of checking in to Facebook at 40,000 feet wears off, and email isn’t all that popular anymore, anyway, you’ll probably go back to streaming the movies anyway. I would imagine someone flying for business will take advantage and they can right off the expense.

Air Canada’s 777-300, Not as big as the double decker planes but pretty frigging big all the same

Air Canada has had wi-fi on their regular service flights already, with a different plan again for flight duration. They have a short, one hour pass and the next one they offer is for the duration of a one way flight. It doesn’t say if it includes connections. It’s $21, a bit more than Rouge’s 24 hour pass. Both Rouge and Air Canada offer a monthly pass for those of you up in the air often.

Air Canada’s nearest competitor, Westjet, also has a streaming service and on board wi-fi. They stream through the Westjet app, naturally, and their wi-fi prices seem cheaper than Air Canada’s. No surprise there, actually. Their passes are 30 minutes, 3 hours and flight duration for the longer journey. I think that’s quite sensible, actually though if you have a lot of transfers to get where you’re going, the price of Air Canada’s 24 hour service is better.

Again, I’m sure business travelers would find the wi-fi service handy but for me, I think I’d be just as happy with the in flight streaming service. The regular Air Canada flights mostly have the touch screens on the seat backs for the streaming service and I think they have or are upgrading that.

I’m not pushing people to pay for wi-fi passes, I’m only putting it out there that it’s available and what it’s going to cost you. I’m pretty sure most other major airlines have or will soon have similar services. It’s a bit of a cash cow. The no-frills airlines already make you pay for pretty much everything.

I was particularly interested to research this topic because our flight to Hawaii from Vancouver will be on Rouge and it’s a 5+ hour flight. I think I’ll more than likely stick to the streaming service. It’s a far cry from the days when there was one movie playing (maybe two if it was a really long flight) on overhead screens that you couldn’t always see depending on where you were sitting.

 

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