Just how good is airline Wi-Fi? Not very good, according to Gizmodo. In fact, the tech website warns, “All inflight Wi-Fi sort of sucks.”
First of all, you can’t know exactly what kind of Wi-Fi your plane will offer until you know your flight number. Then, even if you fly on an airline that promises Wi-Fi on all flights, each plane has different equipment installed. And even then, there’s a chance that equipment could be broken.
In other words, it’s a crap shoot. Still, your chances of getting a fast, reliable connection to the Internet on a given airline can be predicted, based on the type of equipment used by an airline, the percentage of it fleet with Wi-Fi capability, and other factors. It’s less of a crapshoot on some airlines than on others.
So, for example, Gizmodo ranks JetBlue tops for inflight Wi-Fi, based on the airline’s Ka-band Fly-Fi system, which delivers download speeds of 15 Mbps. The caveat: While all the carrier’s A321 jets are equipped with Fly-Fi, only around 80 percent of its older A320s have it. Handily, flyers can check a widget on JetBlue’s website to determine whether the plane on an upcoming flight will have Fly-Fi. But the widget won’t tell them whether the system will be operational or not.
Gizmodo’s full list of U.S. airlines’ inflight Wi-Fi service, ranked from best to worst:
- JetBlue – “Probably the fastest in the sky”
- Virgin America – “Crazy-fast Gogo ATG-4 service is available on the airline’s entire fleet”
- Delta – “A spectrum of quality and speed”
- Southwest – “A pretty damn great Wi-Fi setup”
- Alaska – “Slow compared to your Wi-Fi at home, but at least Alaska can guarantee service on every flight”
- American – “Pretty good Wi-Fi coverage across its fleet”
- US Airways – “Ditto on the Gogo offering, as US Airways and American are now merging”
- United – “Insanely confusing”
Eventually, speedy inflight Wi-Fi will be a reliable fact of travel life. Until then, there’s Gizmodo. And crossed fingers.
Reader Reality Check
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This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.