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American Says Free Wi-Fi is Coming … With a Huge Catch

American Airlines made headlines Wednesday after announcing some inflight improvements, including the prospect of getting online for free after watching a brief ad.

But then there's this little detail: After watching a 15- or 30-second ad, customers can only get online free for 20 minutes, an airline spokesperson confirmed. And there's no way to reconnect for free by watching another ad – if you want to get back online, you have to pay for it.

So while American's news initially seemed like the Dallas-based airline would draw even with Delta, it falls far, far short. Since launching in February 2023, Delta has offered free Wi-Fi to anyone with a SkyMiles account (which is free to join) on a vast majority of its domestic flights.

It won't be available on each and every American Airlines flight, either. The Dallas-based airline is only that brief free Wi-Fi connection on its aircraft equipped with Viasat technology. While that covers a bulk of its domestic fleet, it means some domestic flights as well as all smaller regional jets and wide-body international planes will miss the cut.

Compared to its competition, the cost of getting online with American is typically the highest: Customers often pay $15, $20, or more to connect to Wi-Fi for a full flight. The airline is also planning to offer the ability to redeem AAdvantage miles for Wi-Fi onboard starting soon on a select few planes, though it didn't disclose how many miles AAdvantage members would have to fork over.

American also said Wednesday it's outfitting its substantial regional fleet with high-speed Wi-Fi starting this summer, though it's unclear whether those planes will fit into these plans.

American Airlines tokyo 

As airlines compete for customers who are increasingly working while traveling, airlines big and small are increasingly focusing on improving inflight connectivity.

Last year, Delta became the second major U.S. airline (after JetBlue) to announce free inflight Wi-Fi for all SkyMiles members, hoping to drive more signups to its frequent flyer program. Like American, free Wi-Fi is currently only available on a subset of Delta's domestic and short-haul international fleet.

The Atlanta-based airline had planned to equip regional and long-haul jets with free Wi-Fi technology by the end of the year, though recent reports suggest that timeline might have slipped into 2025.


1 Responses

  • Yep, pay $3-5000 for a one way biz class ticket to Europe and they won’t throw in free WiFi for you. That’s just lame. Top tier Executive Platinum? Still pay. AA obviously isn’t in the game of luring or keeping loyalty passengers. Tell me you don’t care about your top passengers without telling me you don’t care about your top passengers.

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