The Distant Promise that is In-flight Wi-Fi

A few days ago GigaOM had a story about in-flight wi-fi that highlighted just how far off ubiquitous, reliable and affordable in-flight wi-fi is. The introduction to the article started:

In-flight Wi-Fi has been annoying Americans and Canadians with expensive prices and bad service for a few years. Soon Europeans will get to experience the luxury of a connection at 30,000 feet.

Although complaining about in-flight wi-fi immediately makes me think of this send up[1] by Louis CK, it is one of those promises that has never really materialised. I probably fly 4–6 times a year, but am yet to experience even the expensive and bad service mentioned in the GigaOM article. Not one Australian carriers offers it.

Despite how amazing air travel is as a transport technology, it’s just not a whole lot of fun. Although probably financially required, airlines have been steadily reducing service and comfort for years—which is particularly obvious when you’re 6’4" and always fly on the cheapest economy ticket you can get. But for me, and probably anyone else who grew up in the Internet generation, decent in-flight wi-fi would be a significant distraction to the truth of our surroundings. So much so, I’d likely pay for a more expensive flight if it were an option.

Sadly the GigaOM article concludes by saying a spokesman for British Airways said the airline was just investigating in-flight wi-fi, with no firm decisions about implementation, despite the article itself suggesting a trial and future implementation were imminent. Which just reinforces how far off in-flight wi-fi is for those of us fantasising about a future in which it exists.

  1. Skip to the 2:00 mark if you want to skip the introduction and get right to it.  ↩