WiFi on the plane: everything you need to know

For a long time you had to do without internet access when traveling by air . But that's over now: More and more airlines are upgrading their services to offer WLAN high in the air. But how does WiFi work on an airplane? Which airlines offer it and at what price? And above all: is it worth it?

WiFi on the plane - is it worth it?

In the air, mobile devices cannot establish a connection to the terrestrial cellular networks used on the mainland. A combination of satellite technology and mobile communications is therefore used for the WLAN on board.  WiFi on the plane

The aircraft is equipped with a transmitter that transmits data to a satellite in space. This satellite forwards the information to a ground station, which transmits the messages and photos sent from the air to the respective recipient. To connect to the Internet on board, you must first switch your smartphone or tablet to flight mode, which is the cellular connection deactivated. This is important because the cell phone signals otherwise interfere with important on-board instruments and could also cause high costs – for example even if you are still on the tarmac and not yet in the air. Incidentally, the same applies to boat trips .

Using the settings on the mobile phone, you can then switch on the WLAN in the air and connect to the next wireless access point. Please note, however, that the WLAN in the aircraft is only switched on at a certain altitude. So there is no internet connection when taking off or landing.

These airlines have internet on board WiFi on the plane

Not all airlines offer WiFi in their aircraft, but the technology required for this is increasingly being set up. Air France, for example, wants to offer WiFi in all aircraft by the end of 2020. Nevertheless, you should always look carefully to see whether and under what conditions your airline offers WiFi on the aircraft. Often this is only available on certain routes or on a special type of aircraft. Airlines that offer internet on their flights include Air France, British Airways, Emirates, Eurowings, Lufthansa and a few more.

What does Internet access cost on the plane?

Thanks to the combination of satellite technology and mobile communications, you always have Internet reception in the air. However, this complex transmission technology has its price. Therefore, the use of WLAN in the aircraft is usually chargeable. Few airlines like Norwegian Airlines offer flight connections with free WiFi on the entire route. Or only business class passengers receive free internet access. Some airlines (e.g. Emirates, Air France, KLM, Qatar Airways) give you a free contingent that you can use free of charge for a few minutes or up to a certain amount of data. This is usually enough to send messages or e-mails. However, if you would like to use the Internet in addition, you will need additional data volumebook for an extra charge. But be careful here: The data packages offered are sometimes quite expensive – with some airlines the price per MB can be around one euro!

In general, prices vary depending on the airline, type of aircraft and route. The billing models also differ: some airlines offer Internet packages for a certain data volume , others a surf flat rate for a certain period of time. Different packages are often offered for surfing and streaming – the latter includes a higher data throughput , but is also a lot more expensive. The prices for the simple surf package are around 3 to 8 euros (depending on the airline and flight route), for streaming you pay between 7 and 30 euros.

Prices vary greatly depending on the airline. You should therefore find out about the availability, costs and possible restrictions of your airline before departure.

Is the WiFi worth it when flying?

It all depends on what you want to use the internet access for. Since WLAN on the plane can quickly become expensive, you should think carefully in advance about what you will need internet access for and for how long. Otherwise you can get rid of your credit quickly. Small data packets are completely sufficient for making contact with loved ones or doing brief research on the holiday destination. The packages only cost a small surcharge or are sometimes even available free of charge. So these tariffs could be quite interesting. But also consider whether the email or message to be sent cannot wait until the next airport hotspot. To stream music or movies while flying, you have to dig deeper into your pockets. In view of the high costs, however, offline use of the streaming services is preferable: Download the content of Netflix, Spotify and Co. to your device before you start your journey.

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