October 08, 2010, 10:17 PM — Airlines have been charging fees for seats on the emergency aisle, priority boarding, and anything resembling baggage, so it's no surprise that cheap or free Wi-Fi access isn't a typical frill. But with one in three U.S. planes providing wireless Internet access, we looked at the going rates for going online in the clouds.
Gogo Inflight Wireless
The major player is Gogo Inflight Wireless, a wireless provider that serves 15 airlines including AirTran, Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, United, US Airways, and Virgin America. It was started in 2008 by Aircell.
Gogo offers different rates based on the length of the trip: from $4.95 for a single flight of up to 90 minutes, $9.95 for a flight lasting between 90 minutes and 3 hours, and $12.95 for a flight longer than three hours.
However, frequent fliers can buy discounted access from its Website, where a Gogo 6 Pack of six flights will cost $49.95. That's a $10 to $27 savings on flights lasting either 90 minutes or more than 3 hours long.
Gogo also offers an $11 pass for 24 hours and a $29.95 pass lasting 30 days, but each can only be used on a single airline. After an introductory $19.95 month, monthly service costs $34.95 a month, letting you use the pass with any airline with Gogo service. A one-time, 30-day pass for $39.95 also can be used with any Gogo-equipped airline.
Wi-Fi for mobile devices is also available on a 30-day pass for $19.99, but FCC regulations and airlines do not permit voice calls or VoIP in the air-- all of which aren't supported by Gogo. Some airlines also curb the usage of mobile devices and their peripherals.
Even if your airline advertises Wi-Fi, not all flights will be equipped, and Gogo's coverage only works in the continental United States.
My experience with Gogo on a transcontinental flight from New York to San Francisco was that it was a little slow, but what else was there to do?
Best Buy : The $49.95 Gogo 6 Pack, which works on any six flights.