American Will Start Charging for ViaSat Satellite Internet Next Month

American Airlines has 3 internet providers.

  • Gogo air to ground systems, which will stay on the airline’s regional jets. They’re putting Gogo satellite internet into 140 planes.

  • Panasonic is their provider for international aircraft.

  • ViaSat satellite internet goes into new Boeing 737 MAXs and is being retrofit onto existing aircraft.

I’ve been a critic of 3 internet providers (and four technologies) as bad for customer experience, never knowing what you’re going to get. I love my Gogo monthly subscription. With one flat fee I get internet on all of American’s domestic fleet. I log on even for short Dallas – Austin hops, and it’s a lot cheaper and also faster than buying it flight-by-flight.

Monthly internet subscriptions are also a great deal for the airline’s competitiveness. Since I buy my internet monthly for American I’m more locked into flying American. If I fly Southwest, Delta or United I need to buy the ticket and buy internet. If I fly American there’s no marginal cost for internet. That makes American $8 – $29 cheaper even when tickets are priced the same. It’s the same lock-in idea as Amazon Prime.

I was surprised to learn and share back in September that American’s gogo monthly subscriptions would work on ViaSat-equipped aircraft. It won’t matter to the customer whether you’re on a Gogo-equipped or ViaSat-equipped plane, your monthly plan will still work for internet.

That hasn’t been implemented yet because ViaSat internet has been free. They’ve been working out kinks since the beginning. On the inaugural 737 MAX flight at the end of November ViaSat internet simply didn’t work much. When it did work it wasn’t fast.

ViaSat installations are working better now. A few planes have Gogo and ViaSat retrofits now. And American is prepared to start charging in March.

Here’s the schedule for retrofitting American’s narrowbody aircraft. American A320s and legacy US Airways A319s will have Gogo’s satellite 2Ku service with installations planned to be complete across both before the end of the year. Legacy American A319s and A321s are supposed to be complete with ViaSat satellite internet retrofits a year from now. The massive 737 fleet should have ViaSat within 15 months.

American has been touting that their new configuration 737 MAXs with less seat pitch, less recline and without seat back television score as well or better in ‘likelihood to recommend’ than the rest of the fleet.

Ignore for a moment how bad the legacy US Airways planes are without seat power or an extra legroom coach section (Parker said he thought they could live with not putting power in those planes).

The MAXs have gotten whatever good scores they have while giving away free satellite wifi. With American charging for wifi expect them to stop touting these scores (or just keep referencing old scores).

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, 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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  1. How will this switch over affect T-mobile users who had received free inflight texting (or WiFi) when using gogo?

  2. Finally, expect 737 MAX review to drop to the floor. Perhaps then Doug Parker will take note of how atrocious it is.

  3. RE: Kevin question. Free phone internet and texting from my T-mobile account is great. Although, I sleep on planes, I like to check my phone when I wake up. I am addicted to 24/7 connectivity. I am guessing T-mobile goes away. Until proven otherwise, I think it is yet another downgrade.

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