Confirmed: American Airlines Prepared to Offer Free Inflight WiFi

A week ago I covered a rumor that American Airlines is considering offering free inflight wifi. Now with additional confirmation from well-placed company sources I can report that the airline expects to offer onboard internet for free.

What form the offering takes and when this will be announced and rolled out may not yet be determined.

With Delta having just tested free on board internet, the airline has prepared itself for the need to respond in-kind. That’s the model American’s President Robert Isom described to employees last fall — that they wanted to charge for internet, but competitors could force them to offer it free.

  • They’re probably not going to announce free internet before Delta. If Delta decides after their test not to move forward, American can keep charging.

  • They’re probably not going to offer faster speeds for free than Delta. If Delta offers only ‘basic’ internet free, with higher speeds for a charge, American can be expected to match this.

It’s still possible that American pulls the trigger sooner but the consensus inside the company appears to be to wait to see what Delta does and copy their announcement.

This plan was already in place before United’s President Scott Kirby shared during their earnings call this past week that his airline intended to offer wifi for free as well.

Nearly two years ago American Airlines announced that they would offer free inflight texted and then didn’t do it so they’ve been known to back off of plans like this, however the current road map inside the company is to offer some form of on board internet free to all passengers.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Just this year Barclaycard Aviator Red announced credits when purchasing wifi on american flights. So it would seem to make that benefit useless, right?

  2. @PJ Yoo – there may be free basic speed only, and the card credits could be used for premium. It may be on satellite-equipped planes only so this could be needed for air to ground. But indeed Barcllays may be none too happy with what they negotiated.

  3. Does anyone know how much revenue wi-fi generates for the major airlines? Will fares be increasing the compensate the lost of revenue?

  4. Just because there is no separate charge doesn’t mean it is free. The cost of WiFi will be part of the range of costs ticket prices cover. TANSTAAFL

  5. @DanW – depends. The Viasat product is super fast and can probably support it. Gogo and Panasonic never work to begin with.

  6. Act of desperation? To draw attention away from a consistently Inconsistent product that is rather pathetic compared to modern airlines such as Delta and jetBlue perhaps? ALL USAirways planes have no power so this is only somewhat beneficial.

    I’d personally rather a more comfortable product with actual padding in seats and a usable lav instead of basic free internet.

  7. @CW – I find Gogo’s 2Ku satellite internet to be fine, air to ground is of course older technology and different planes have different generations of antennas so it really depends on what you get. Panasonic though is more or less useless.

  8. @DanW – high speed satellite internet should offer enough bandwidth, so most of American’s domestic narrowbody aircraft would be fine

  9. Does anyone remember years ago when AA was more leader than follower?

    On another note, finally experienced inflight texting last week and it was nice to have. (AM from LHR to MEX)

  10. The Panasonic internet is so pitiful that after using it even with the Barclay card credit, to Paris and back, that was the beginning and end of my internet on AA. I will use free internet, but no way will I pay for it. Their other internet that’s on the CRJs still, that works and I will pay for that. AA is so penny pinching and lame. It would be nice if it could LEAD the way for once, do something because it cared about its customers and wanted to show quality instead of how it puppy dog follows (I sound so cynical, huh? I am one day off a very stressful travel day that should have been simple–and that was with arriving ON TIME!) But lying about weather, on-time departure GOALS in the 60-something percentage range, constant delays, all this junk. Gary, you’re probably giving me too much truth! (not really!). I’m hunting for a comparable legacy airline that can fly me between the two major cities I have to go 4X a year. Right now only AA can do it at a reasonable price. So now I am a flight away from Elite, for the first time ever–and wishing it were anyone but them. They are losing me, one mechanic at a time. Because great is not what they’re going for.

  11. Well that’s gonna make the Barclays free WiFi credit a bit redundant. Maybe we’ll get free peanuts instead.

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