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September 02, 2021

Would you pay extra for airplane Wi-Fi?

There are a lot of things people think should be free.

Health care is one. Swift, prudent justice is another. In some circles, the right to force a national election every other laundry cycle is, too.

Yet when we come across something we’ve perceived as on the house, and then – hey, wait a second, you’re charging  me for this?! – that’s when we really get pissed off.

Such is the case on hundreds of airplanes zipping above you right now, where a battle over the cost of Wi-Fi brews and looks primed to churn on.

The Wall Street Journal reports that, since many major outfits began offering wireless Internet on their flights, travelers and airlines have been butting heads over what the service should cost – if it isn’t to be included free with the already-outrageous price of a ticket, anyway.

Now, get this … and I hope you’re sitting down. As sure as it would mortify children to find out Gilbert Gottfried is the guy voicing that adorable parrot in Aladdin, airlines have this funny idea they should be charging bloated fees for the use of onboard Wi-Fi. I know, whoda thunkit?

Only, problem is, travelers thus far simply don’t want to pay it. According to the WSJ, in-air Wi-Fi use has received a “ho-hum” response from customers, peaking in the rare cases where the service is free and plummeting in use to less than 10 per cent of passengers when money is involved.

So as a result, what we have now is a kind of tug-of-war between airlines and passengers to find the right price to place on the service, an issue that – as far as air travel is concerned – has no real precedent to draw on as a reference.

What’s clear is that, obviously, people don’t want to pay for onboard Wi-Fi (Alaska Airlines even tried offering the service for $1, yet still found few would bite), but to be fair, the current prices really aren’t that bad.

On many flights, you can get Wi-Fi access for anywhere between $5.95 and $12.95, depending on the duration of the trip. That’s not mind-blowing cash considering the appeal of Internet use to business travelers, where time is money and all that keep-a-step-ahead-of-the-other-guy stuff.

Given that, then, airlines might actually have a reasonably priced (by airline standards, keep in mind) product here. But they’re overlooking one huge thing:

To entice Wi-Fi users, wouldn’t it make sense to fit many planes with power ports at every seat? I know a select few have plugs already, but given what Wi-Fi connectivity does to a laptop’s battery, a lack of outlets might actually be a major obstacle keeping Internet use on planes from taking off.

In any case, would you pay extra for airline Wi-Fi or do you think it should be included in the original ticket price? Or maybe you want this nonsense off the planes altogether …

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...