How’s this for an AvGeek irony: it’s hard to planespot from a plane. Sure, while you’re on the ground there’s tons of aircraft around. But once you’re in the sky you’re zooming by other planes so rarely — and so quickly — that it’s hard to catch any of them. But one recent flight I took was a fun exception to that rule.
Thanks to a winter wave of employee COVID infections and a high-profile system meltdown, Jetblue had a tough past year from an operational perspective. But they rebounded from those issues, and their onboard economy product still shines strong — especially the free high-speed inflight internet (“Fly-Fi”).
Fly-Fi is one of JetBlue’s major points of differentiation, and they know it
To minimize touch points in the COVID era, you can use your smartphone to control the screen
Fly-Fi is a high-bandwidth satellite-powered system that’s now available across the fleet. It provides gate-to-gate connectivity so you could start using it from the moment you board. On my flight from New York to Mexico I waited to log on since there were great takeoff views to be had.
Imagine someone took your iPhone and disabled LTE. Annoying. Then they shut off 4G. Super annoying. Then they took your remaining 3G connection and split it up between you and 160 of your closest friends. Welcome to the complicated world in-flight WiFi.
Hopefully live streaming content will be easier at 30,000 feet – Photo: AirlineReporter
In-flight WiFi quickly transitioned from a magical new technology that few people had any reason to use, to a near-ubiquitous amenity that passengers demand on every flight. A victim of its own success, in-flight WiFi is now often incredibly expensive and annoyingly slow. How did we get here, and what is being done about it?
WiFi is becoming common, but doesn’t mean it isn’t complex – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz
A few weeks ago, Gizmodo ran an article claiming to rank and explain every major U.S. carrier’s WiFi system. At Routehappy, a big part of my job is to do exactly that. I need to know exactly what WiFi system is installed on every airline fleet and subfleet in the world, how it performs, what its limitations are, and how it ranks in the overall ecosystem. When I read through this article, I couldn’t help but notice it contained a few errors.
It’s a very complicated ecosystem, but not so complicated that it can’t be figured out. While the article does a great job of explaining how in-flight WiFi works and the technology behind it, I felt it was necessary to clear up which airlines currently offer what systems. Gizmodo’s 1-9 ranking is unchanged.
Below are excerpts from the original Gizmodo article, with my comments added under each.