So you got a brand new iPad. You do a lot of travelling (economy coach), so one of the reasons why you bought it was so you can use it during those 3-4 hour flights. In today's episode, we look at the WiFi in airports, airlines, and if they are worth the purchase.
Why Can't you just get one WiFi package?
First of all, remember the Wifi in the airport is not the same WiFi in the plane. Most of the time, they are two different companies. Therefore, you might have bought the "Day package", but you can only use in airports that have that type of WiFi.
Boingo is a company that brings wireless hotspots to many airports, along with other areas. Prices starting at $4.95 a month, it will connect 2 devices to airport Wifi. They do have partnerships with other WiFi companies, like AT&T, so you may be able to log on to those accounts and not have to pay for WiFi in the airport.
Free WiFi Airports
There are a bevvy of airports that offer free WiFi service. McCarren International airport in Las Vegas is one of them. Some ask for email addresses, others give you choices, like filling out surveys or watching a quick video. To find the list of free WiFi, check out this list at WiFi Free Hotspot.
Keep in mind - Some of these airports are large, and if an airline has it's own wing, they might just not have the free WiFi with it.
WiFi on a Plane
So a lot of planes are starting to get satellite Wifi on the plane. This is great for the daily flier, because they can check their email, and do business without having to wait to touch ground to connect. Of course, the WiFi is controlled via satellite, and works best above 10,000 feet (because there are few obstructions, and a lot less radio interference).
It doesn't mean you are going to get 50 down/ 50 up speed. In fact, I did a few speed tests, and you will be lucky to get 1 MB download speed during your flight.
Don't Expect to Watch Netflix on the Flight
The internet speeds barely hit 1 MB. Cloud interference could slow the connection. Finally, the amount of people using the wireless on the plane will also contribute to bad speeds. One part of internet speed you don't normally look at is the time it takes to send a packet of information. All tests I did showed a very slow response time for sending and receiving.
So in return - getting your email works well. Basic surfing of web pages is ok. YouTube takes forever. It would be best to pre-download movies to watch on the plane.
How to get Free Wifi on a Plane
You most likely will have Gogo Internet on your plane. AirTran, Alaska Air, American, Delta, Frontier, United, US Airways, and Virgin all use this service. Over 1,500 planes have the service, and it doesn't matter how far you go, they will offer service (pro-rated). You can purchase a 24 hour pass for $12.95 if you are in the plane all day.
The best part about Gogo, though, is they offer free service to certain websites. For example, you could shop on Amazon.com without having to pay for the gogo service. You could also get certain news, and see where your plane is, how high you are in the air, how fast you are going, and the forcast for your destination.
They also offer free service promotions from time to time. When I was flying from Austin, I got a free 30 minutes by just giving them my email address. There is currently a promotion where Blackberry users on United flights get a deal.
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