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Your best bets for finding Wi-Fi on domestic flights

Ian Paul | June 27, 2013
Inflight Wi-Fi is becoming a required feature for many cross-country travelers, especially for flights that last more than four hours.

Inflight Wi-Fi is becoming a required feature for many cross-country travelers, especially for flights that last more than four hours.

Even though onboard Wi-Fi is becoming more common, however, Internet connectivity is only available on 38 percent of U.S. domestic flights, according to a new report by Routehappy.com.

The site, which ranks flights according to length and onboard amenities, took a look at its database of U.S. flights to figure out the state of inflight Wi-Fi for U.S. domestic and international flights.

The result? There's a lot of Wi-Fi out there, and more is rolling out over the next two years. But right now, if you want to guarantee your domestic flight will have Wi-Fi, you'd better do your research on sites like Hipmunk and Kayak that detail Wi-Fi options for each flight.

If you can't do that, here are three big takeaways from Routehappy's study to help you figure out which airlines offer the best bets for inflight Wi-Fi.

Who offers Wi-Fi?
Anybody who flies a lot knows that if you want to guarantee Wi-Fi on a flight, the best bet is Virgin since the company has Internet service on 100 percent of its fleet, as does Southwest-owned AirTran.

But it's not always possible to fly with your carrier of choice, so what about the other guys?

Based on sheer numbers, Delta and Southwest offer the most domestic flights with Wi-Fi on a daily basis, Routehappy says. Delta offers more than 3,000 Wi-Fi flights, and Southwest has around 2,300, with Wi-Fi rolling out to another 800 planes in the coming months.

After Delta and Southwest, Wi-Fi numbers take a nosedive with U.S. Airways (which is merging with American) offering nearly 1,300 daily flights with Wi-Fi. American is the next runner-up with little more than 500 Wi-Fi-enabled planes and another 900 soon scheduled to carry the functionality.

Consistent Wi-Fi wanted
But numbers are only half the battle. The other question is which airline offers Wi-Fi most consistently? In other words, how many flights take off without Wi-Fi every day? Even though Delta has more Wi-Fi flights, Southwest actually offers fewer daily flights without Wi-Fi--800 disconnected flights compared to Delta's more than 1,800, according to Routehappy.

Bottom line: If Virgin or AirTran are out, look next to Southwest or Delta.

Your best bet for getting power
But what if you need to plug in to keep your laptop running on that 5-hour journey from New York to Los Angeles?

Virgin again is the airline choice for tech travelers since all its planes offer ways for you to plug in. United's premium service flights between New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles also come with plugs for all.

 

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