Planes are getting more and more advanced. Soon, you may have your own bed in the cargo hold on long-haul routes, while entire in-flight menus are being designed to fight jet lag. But, there are a few basics we still lack on most planes, like unlimited, free Wi-Fi. Domestically, it’s been limited to JetBlue, which has offered free Wi-Fi on all flights since 2017. Now, Delta is trailing unlimited, free Wi-Fi for a few weeks.
While this could be a blessing to those of us who need to get work done on transcontinental flights, there is something pure about flights being our last tech-free sanctuary. Instead of being inundated with news, updates, and baby pictures, you have an hour, or even 19 hours, of peace at 30,000 feet to watch an ’80s movie or get to that book you’ve been meaning to read. So, should airlines offer Wi-Fi to all? Traveler contributors have their opinions at the ready:
Why can’t we just unplug?
While others may be thrilled (and rightfully so) at the prospect of faster, better Wi-Fi to let them access their work emails at any moment, make calls or scroll through Facebook, I recoil at the idea. Flying is this rare chunk of time where, for a few sacred hours, no one can reach you. No texts, no Twitter, nothing. And it’s great! I genuinely get excited over the prospect of boarding a long haul flight armed with a novel and a stack of magazines that considerably vary in quality (a copy of the New Yorker is always nestled comfortably next to the latest US Weekly in my carry-on). Then there’s the joy of ordering off the drinks trolley and spending long undisturbed hours watching bad films without judgement. I know WiFi access, available whenever, wherever, is inevitable, but considering we already live in a world where we are almost constantly connected, I’d like to cling onto my refuge in the sky—at least for a little longer. –Lale Arikoglu
Retro Hugh Grant should be entertainment enough.
Wi-Fi on flights is more convenient, sure. It has its perks. But as the chorus to add Wi-Fi that’s faster, free(er), and more ubiquitous grows louder, I find myself pausing. I like the idea that airplane travel is—sort of—one of these last bastions of disconnection, where you’re free to float above clouds, watch any and all of Hugh Grant’s romantic comedies, and not be expected to answer those work emails, rapidly piling up. Call me naive, but if travel is really about the journey and not just the destination, then I prefer my journey—at least, this stage—channel a more romantic era of travel. Remember the Golden Age? –Katherine LaGrave
It’s the future of flying. Deal with it.
Much like many flying-related debates people seem to get charged up about, I don’t totally grasp the one regarding free in-flight Wi-Fi and whether airlines should offer it to everyone or not. Isn’t it inevitable? Won’t the somewhat near future simply hold free in-flight Wi-Fi for all? Airlines may spend much of their time figuring out how to keep offering us considerably less for more, but when it comes to Internet service, I just assume they will eventually relent and offer it gratis. Now, do I think such service is necessary? Not really. Have I gone my entire life thus far without Googling stuff on planes for free? Yes. Has traveling through the air sans free Internet ever negatively impacted my existence? Not that I’m aware of. Could I live out my days without it and be fine? As far as I know. –Logan Orlando
Let me have my multimedia.
Is this a trick question? No, really—I only ask because, like many of my fellow millennials, I have an unabiding love for (okay, possible addiction to) my various devices and gadgets, and especially so when a long-haul flight is involved. Don’t get me wrong—I cherish the idea of disappearing above the clouds for a couple of hours, burying myself in back issues of The New Yorker and being blissfully unreachable to all (a girl can dream, right?)—but I might love the ability to spontaneously HBO Go an entire season of Veep, free of extraneous charges, even more. –Betsy Blumenthal
This article was originally published in 2016 and has been updated with new information.
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