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More and more flyers are expecting fast, secure Wi-Fi as part of their travel experience, and United Airlines passengers are no different. If you have an upcoming United flight, you might have some questions about how it handles Wi-Fi connectivity in the air.
Let’s take a look at United Wi-Fi, its costs, and whether you can text or stream video for free the next time you fly the friendly skies.
Will my United flight offer Wi-Fi?
United offers Wi-Fi on most flights. If you aren’t sure whether your specific flight will have Wi-Fi, the airline offers a coverage map that shows Wi-Fi availability based on the type of plane you’re flying on and your destination.
Importantly, United says that Wi-Fi availability is “subject to change,” so even if the coverage map shows that your flight has Wi-Fi, you should always have a backup plan in case it doesn’t work. This might include printing out important work emails before the flight or downloading shows or movies onto a tablet before takeoff.
» Learn more: Is there Wi-Fi on planes?
How to connect to United Wi-Fi
Connecting to United Wi-Fi only takes a few steps:
Find and connect to the “United Wi-Fi” network. Be sure to do this in airplane mode if you’re connecting to United Wi-Fi with your cell phone or tablet.
Launch your internet browser and go to unitedwifi.com.
Follow the instructions to pay for your Wi-Fi (or if you qualify for free Wi-Fi — which we tell you how to get below — follow the instructions to log in for free).
Once you’re connected to Wi-Fi on your flight, you can access United’s app, along with its in-flight entertainment options, and select messaging services for free. However, if you’d like to access other apps or websites, you’ll need to pay for Wi-Fi access.
» Learn more: How to save money on United Airlines flights
How much does United Wi-Fi cost?
The amount you’ll pay varies and is based on a few factors including the flight route, your United MileagePlus membership status and other factors. Below is an overview of United’s Wi-Fi pricing options.
If you don’t fly frequently, paying for Wi-Fi on your flight is a safe bet. For those flying on domestic or short-haul international routes, Wi-Fi will cost you $8 if you’re a MileagePlus member or $10 for non-members. Alternatively, you can redeem 1,600 miles for Wi-Fi access.
Those traveling on long-haul international flights will find the price of Wi-Fi varies based on the route.
If you’re taking multiple flights in a single day, it can make sense to purchase a day pass in advance. You can do this when booking your flight or adding it to your itinerary later.
While it may not save you money (United says the cost of a day pass is equal to the amount Wi-Fi would cost for each individual flight during a 24-hour period), it can save you some hassle by not having to buy Wi-Fi more than once.
If you’re a frequent United flyer, you can purchase either a monthly or yearly Wi-Fi subscription. A United Wi-Fi subscription covering North and Central America costs $49 per month or $539 per year, while a global Wi-Fi subscription costs $69 per month or $689 per year.
You can also use United MileagePlus miles to purchase the subscription instead of cash.
» Learn more: Great ways to earn United MileagePlus Miles
If you have a T-Mobile Magenta or Magenta MAX plan, you’ll receive free United Wi-Fi with streaming service and unlimited texting. Magenta MAX customers receive these benefits on all United flights that offer Wi-Fi.
Those with a Magenta plan get free Wi-Fi for the full duration of their flights four times each year and get unlimited texting plus one hour of free Wi-Fi on all other flights.
United credit cardholders
If you have a United co-branded credit card, you’ll receive 25% back as a statement credit when you use your eligible card to purchase United Wi-Fi. This includes annual and monthly subscriptions as well as day pass purchases.
While the price of United Wi-Fi can vary, great ways to save money include signing up for an eligible T-Mobile plan, enrolling in United’s MileagePlus program or paying for Wi-Fi with your United credit card.
» Learn more: Best benefits of United Airlines credit cards
How to get free Wi-Fi on United
If your goal is to get free Wi-Fi on your United flight, you’ll need to have an eligible T-Mobile account. The two T-Mobile plans that qualify are the Magenta and Magenta MAX plans. Here’s what you get with each plan:
Magenta MAX. Unlimited Wi-Fi, streaming and texting for the duration of your flight.
Magenta. Unlimited Wi-Fi, streaming and texting on four flights per year. Additional flights offer one hour of free Wi-Fi and streaming, and unlimited texting.
While having an eligible T-Mobile account is the only way to get free Wi-Fi on United, you can get a 25% discount by paying with an eligible United credit card such as the United℠ Explorer Card, the United Quest℠ Card or the United Club℠ Infinite Card.
Additionally, you can use select messaging apps as well as United’s streaming in-flight entertainment for free on any flight. More on this in the next section.
Does United Wi-Fi include text messaging?
United flyers who want to stay connected to friends, family and co-workers while they’re flying are in luck.
Once you’re connected to United Wi-Fi, you’ll be able to send text messages for free through apps like iMessage, Facebook and WhatsApp — no fee required.
Does United Wi-Fi include streaming capability?
United began adding streaming capability (think the ability to watch Netflix or Hulu) to its Wi-Fi in late 2021.
Since the service is still being rolled out across the airline’s network, we don’t recommend relying on your flight having streaming capability — although hopefully it will become more common in the next few years.
How United Wi-Fi compares with other airlines
In our latest analysis on the best onboard entertainment across airlines, United tied for ninth place out of 14 airlines. It offered better in-flight digital experiences than British Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, Frontier and Spirit.
Here are all of the airlines we reviewed, and their overall rankings on a five-point scale:
There are several reasons why United's Wi-Fi performed poorly relative to its competitors. These include the lack of free Wi-Fi for passengers with United elite status members or cardholders, the lack of free live TV and that seatback power is only available on some aircraft.
» Learn more: The best airline loyalty programs this year
United Airlines Wi-Fi, recapped
United offers Wi-Fi on a wide variety of planes and routes. The cost can vary based on factors including the route you’re flying and whether you’re a MileagePlus member.
Frequent United flyers can save money by purchasing a subscription, getting a United credit card or signing up for a qualifying T-Mobile plan.
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 2022, 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