Airlines Gifting Free End-of-Year WiFi

by  Suzanne Steinert | Nov 5, 2009
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The holidays are shaping up to be a bit more merry and bright for flyers this year, now that a number of major airlines have announced free in-flight WiFi deals. While 2009 has seen all the usual suspects (Delta, Virgin America, JetBlue, etc.) rolling out en-route service on most or all flights, the cost of upwards of $10 a pop on longer trips (half the price of my monthly at-home bill) has left only the most email-addicted passengers biting the bait. Thankfully, just in time for air travel’s busiest time of year, discounts seem to literally be falling from the skies, with many airlines offering Internet passes completely free of charge.

Thanks to Lexus (the automobile company is sponsoring the deal), American Airlines is in the midst of a brief free service stint on all flights until November 11 (code: 2010LEXUSLS).  AirTran is likewise providing multiple service deals now through December 31, 2009, including free WiFi on all flights between Boston and Baltimore’s BWI (code: BOSBWI); free service for first time log-ins on any flight (code: AIRTRANTRYGOGO); and a tit-for-tat deal that includes a free session for each purchased at full-price (session costs vary according to the length of your flight and device you’ll be using; freebies must be redeemed by January 31, 2010). Plus, 30-day passes (normally hocked at $49.95) are selling for half-price until the year is out.

Virgin America passengers, meanwhile, can hop on the web for free between November 10 and January 15, 2010. As of November 15, United will be providing comped WiFi on select flights between New York’s JFK and Cali's SFO or LAX. Delta is teaming up with eBay to offer a free taste of service on its domestic flights for the week of Thanksgiving, beginning November 24th; the popular GoGo service is, like with AirTran, free for first timers.

Even airports are getting in on the action: from November 10, 2009 through January 15, 2010, Google is offering free access to networks at 47 U.S. airports (32 of which normally charge for the privilege), including biggies like Miami, Boston, Houston (Bush-Intercontinental), Houston (Hobby), Austin, Nashville, Memphis, St. Louis, Baltimore, Seattle, Oklahoma City, and more.

The catch? So far, Virgin America and AirTran are the only major airlines with their entire fleets WiFi-equipped, so just because the others are offering free service doesn’t mean it will be available on every flight.

Here’s to hoping this trend turns into a gift that keeps on giving, with eventually all airlines (and airports) offering free WiFi as a perk, not an added price, well into the New Year.

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