For years, airplanes were the one place where we could escape from our electronic devices. Even if we wanted to use those 5-hour stretches of flight time to get some work done, like catching up on emails and researching projects on the internet, airplanes didn’t have the technology to keep us connected to the Internet. Now, thanks to in-flight Wi-Fi, industrious travelers who want or need to stay connected often have that option. Here are some tips for taking advantage of it:
Choose Airlines with In-flight Wi-Fi
In-flight Wi-Fi is now available on most domestic and international flights, and other major airlines like Southwest are in the process of adding Wi-Fi to their fleet of planes. Each airline has its own way of helping to keep you connected at 35,000 feet, so before you book your trip, you might want to check out your preferred airline’s website to make sure they can accommodate your needs. For example, most American planes have Gogo in-flight internet and JetBlue is currently installing Fly-Fi to its fleet. The vast majority of US Airways planes also have Gogo Wi-Fi coverage, as does Alaska and Virgin America. You can purchase a daily Gogo pass for $19 through their site, or an unlimited monthly pass.
Texting in the Air
The ability to text while sitting in a chair 35,000 feet above ground depends largely on your cell phone carrier and if the plane is Gogo enabled. To text on a plane, you will use Over-the-Top messaging through a third-party app like WhatsApp or iMessage. This service will also let you check any visual voicemails you’ve received while on the flight. T-Mobile customers can get the in-flight texting service at no extra cost. Right now, the airlines that support the in-flight texting option include American, Delta, US Airways and AirTran. One quick note: your phone or tablet must be in airline mode until the announcement that it is safe to enable Wi-Fi on your device.
Making Phone Calls
Right now, notes Conde Nast Traveler, you cannot make or take phone calls on most airplanes. Interestingly, travelers used to have the opportunity to make an in-flight call with the Verizon Airfone that was attached to every row, but in general, you cannot use your cellular connection while in flight. If you are flying internationally, there is a small chance that your airline will allow you to make phone calls; these include Quantas and Emirates. To sidestep an restrictions about using a cellular connection in flight, T-Mobile offers Wi-Fi calling as an option. If you are not currently with T-Mobile and have a great deal of traveling coming up, this might be the ideal time to switch carriers and get a phone and service that will help you stay connected.
As long as you have a Wi-Fi connection on board and a messaging app like WhatsApp or Viber, you should be able to email to your heart’s content. You can also use the plane’s Wi-Fi to post airplane selfies on Facebook and Tweet about the delicious pretzels you had for an in-flight snack.