Wi-Fi in the sky used to be a luxury. Now travelers are so used to being connected with friends, family and social media that the idea of being offline for hours may be frightening.
Airlines have responded by making investments to add high-speed, satellite-based Wi-Fi to planes. While most airlines still charge passengers to connect, there are many ways to get free in-flight Wi-Fi — from flying one of the few airlines that provide free Wi-Fi to leveraging elite status to connect for free.
Here’s a look at which airlines have free Wi-Fi and all of the ways you can stay connected.
Which airlines have free Wi-Fi for all passengers?
JetBlue is the only U.S. airline that provides free Wi-Fi for all passengers. All JetBlue passengers can get free, unlimited Wi-Fi on flights and bypass paywalls through JetBlue’s Fly-Fi product.
But you need to be flying within the Viasat coverage areas to get service. All JetBlue planes are equipped to provide Wi-Fi over the mainland. But only JetBlue’s “recently restyled” Airbus A320 and A321neo aircraft have expanded coverage.
But JetBlue might not be the only U.S. airline with free Wi-Fi for long. Delta says it plans to provide free Wi-Fi for all passengers on all flights. Starting May 13, 2021, Delta will run a trial providing free Wi-Fi to passengers on 55 flights a day. In the meantime, all Delta passengers get free mobile messaging through iMessage, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.
Alaska Airlines offers free texting through iMessage, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp on all internet-connected flights. Southwest Airlines also allows free text messaging through iMessage and WhatsApp.
Several international airlines also offer free Wi-Fi to passengers:
Air New Zealand offers free Wi-Fi on domestic flights within New Zealand.
China Eastern Airlines and Shanghai Airlines offer free Wi-Fi on a “first come, first served” basis to the first 100 passengers who apply for it ahead of the flight.
Japan Airlines passengers get free Wi-Fi on domestic flights.
Nok Air provides free internet on all flights operated using a Boeing 737.
Norwegian Airlines passengers can browse the web and send and receive emails and text-based messaging on flights within Europe. But you’ll need to pay to access social media or stream videos.
Philippine Airlines passengers can access a complimentary 3 megabyte chat plan. Get up to 100MB more data for $10.
Qantas passengers can access free high-speed Wi-Fi on most domestic flights on Boeing 737 and Airbus A330-200 aircraft.
Qatar Airways offers all passengers 15 minutes or 10MB of free Wi-Fi thanks to a sponsor. And Qatar Student Club members can get free Wi-Fi for the entire flight if they book through Qatar’s website.
Which airlines give free in-flight Wi-Fi for elite status?
If you’re an elite member of one of these frequent flyer programs, you might be able to surf the internet free on your next flight.
Southwest offers A-List Preferred elite members free Wi-Fi each time you fly, without having to pay the $8 fee. Just connect to the Wi-Fi service, click the “Connect for free” button and log in to your Rapid Rewards account to score the free connection.
International airlines that provide internet access to elite members include:
Emirates Skywards Gold elite members get free access to chat through WhatsApp, Messenger and other text services. Platinum members get free, unlimited Wi-Fi on flights.
Finnair Plus Gold members get complimentary internet access for one hour on intercontinental flights. Platinum members get complimentary access the entire flight. On flights within Europe and the Middle East, both Gold and Platinum members get just 30 minutes of free access.
Icelandair Saga Gold members get complimentary Wi-Fi access for two devices.
SAS EuroBonus Diamond or Gold members get free Wi-Fi on the plane.
Singapore Airlines PPS Club members get 100MB of data. General KrisFlyer members can connect to text messaging services for up to two hours (capped at 30MB).
Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles Elite and Elite Plus members receive 400MB of free internet access. Meanwhile, Miles&Smiles Classic and Classic Plus members get 10MB of free access.
Which airlines have free Wi-Fi for premium cabin passengers?
Another way of getting free Wi-Fi while flying is by booking business or first class tickets on certain international airlines (this perk isn't available on any domestic airlines).
There are at least seven airlines that allocate premium cabin passengers at least 100MB of free in-flight Wi-Fi:
Aer Lingus offers business class passengers free internet connectivity.
Emirates Skywards members can access in-flight Wi-Fi for free throughout the flight when flying in first class. Business class passengers can get free unlimited chat through WhatsApp, Messenger and other text services.
Icelandair Saga Premium, Saga Premium Flex and Economy Flex passengers get complimentary Wi-Fi for two devices.
Philippine Airlines business class passengers get 100MB of free in-flight Wi-Fi.
SAS Plus and Business class passengers get free Wi-Fi.
Singapore Airlines Suites and First Class passengers get unlimited in-flight Wi-Fi. Business class passengers are allocated 100MB.
Turkish business class passengers get 1 gigabyte of free Wi-Fi.
Other airlines aren’t as generous with premium cabin passengers:
Alitalia “Magnifica” business class passengers used to get a voucher for 50MB of data. Premium Economy passengers got 10MB of data. In early 2021, the airline suspended the vouchers without indicating when or whether they would return.
Finnair business class and Economy Comfort passengers get one hour of free internet access on intercontinental flights. On shorter flights, business class passengers get 30 minutes of free Wi-Fi.
Swiss Air Lines first-class passengers get a voucher for 50MB of Wi-Fi on the house.
Other ways to get free in-flight Wi-Fi
Several credit cards offer free Wi-Fi as a benefit of being a cardholder. Some cards offer Wi-Fi only on specific airlines, while others offer Wi-Fi passes that can be used on multiple airlines.
Southwest flyers will want to opt for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card. Cardholders can get up to 365 statement credits per year for $8 Southwest Wi-Fi purchases.
American Airlines flyers can choose between two cards that offer free Wi-Fi. The AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® offers up to $25 in statement credits per cardholder anniversary year for Wi-Fi purchases on American Airlines. Meanwhile, the AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver Mastercard® offers up to $50 in statement credits each cardholder year for American Airlines Wi-Fi purchases.
Other cards offer passes that can be used on any airline that utilizes Gogo Wi-Fi. There are currently three cards that offer 12 complimentary Gogo Wi-Fi passes each year:
UBS Visa Infinite Credit Card.
If none of those cards works for you, several credit cards offer a general travel credit that could be used for Wi-Fi. Check the terms to make sure your in-flight Wi-Fi purchase will qualify.
Unfortunately, some credit cards no longer offer free Wi-Fi perks. The Platinum Card® from American Express previously offered free Wi-Fi through Boingo, but this perk was cut in 2019. Similarly, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express used to offer free Boingo Wi-Fi and free Gogo passes, but both perks were cut as of Jan. 1, 2020. Terms apply.
T-Mobile subscribers can get free in-flight Wi-Fi on Alaska, American and Delta flights that are powered by Gogo Wi-Fi. All T-Mobile subscribers will get free text messaging (for apps like WhatsApp, iMessage and Google Hangouts) and at least an hour of data.
If you have a Magenta Plus, ONE Plus or ONE Plus International subscription, you’ll get free, unlimited Wi-Fi throughout the flight.
The bottom line
There are plenty of ways to get free Wi-Fi on flights. Your strategy depends on which airline you’re flying.
A few airlines provide free Wi-Fi to all passengers. Some airlines have credit card partnerships that will reimburse Wi-Fi purchases. Other airlines give elite members free in-flight Wi-Fi, while some airlines provide free Wi-Fi to premium cabin passengers. T-Mobile subscribers can get at least an hour of free internet access on certain airlines.
If you don’t qualify for any of those methods, make sure to use a credit card with a travel credit — such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve® — to get reimbursed for in-flight Wi-Fi purchases.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card