Despite travelers’ obsessions with being plugged in on the road, only 38% of domestic flights—and less than 1% of international flights—offer WiFi on board. Change is coming, with over 2,400 domestic and international flights rolling out Wi-Fi in the near future, but even then, in-flight web surfing will be far from ubiquitous, says data by flight engine RouteHappy. So here’s what the study suggests you do to make sure you stay connected in the skies:
If you’re booking domestically…
• Book on AirTran or Virgin America. These smaller airlines have been able to install WiFi on their planes more quickly, and as a result, their entire fleets are connected. Impressively, Southwest’s fleet is about 75% equipped, and they’re in the process of wiring the last of their planes—so add them to your trusted list as well.
• If you must book a legacy carrier, use Delta when flying domestically. About 60% of its flights are Wi-Fi equipped—more than American, United, and US Air combined.
• If your laptop needs a plug—and not just an internet connection—try flying American. The airline only has Wi-Fi on 541 of its daily flights (another 900+ are coming soon), but 515 of those flights also feature in-seat power.
• Consider your route. Flights departing from Atlanta have incredibly high probability of having WiFi, thanks to Delta’s strides. But you’ll find the highest concentration of connected flights if you’re flying between LAX and SFO.
• The aircraft itself may be your best indicator. Though they’re less common, all DC-9’s, MD-90’s, and 99% of A321’s have Wi-Fi already on board. As for the popular Boeing 737? It’s currently 75% equipped, and will surpass 80% in the very near future.
If you’re booking internationally…
• Book Lufthansa. It’s the leading WiFi provider when it comes to international flights departing the US—and interestingly, American comes right behind it. When more 777-300ER jets are delivered to American, Routehappy expects them to become to top airline for international WiFi service.
• Keep your expectations low. Unless you’re flying to Canada or Germany, you’re likely not going to be updating Facebook mid-flight.
• Be patient. AirFrance and Finnair are currently testing WiFi, with ten other airlines rolling out internet service in the near future. It won’t be comprehensive, but it’s a start.
Want more data? See the full results here.
Nikki Ekstein is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her at on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.