It’s Time For American Airlines To Put Better Internet Into Regional Jets

American Airlines has fantastic inflight wifi on most of its planes, but there’s a portion of its fleet that lacks internet entirely and there are many planes where it’s unusable. There was a time when this made sense for technical reasons, because the flights these planes served were usually short, and because passengers weren’t as reliant on what’s become such a basic service.

  • Embraer ERJ-145s don’t have internet. These are the airline’s smaller regional jets. It’s not a technical limitation. JSX puts high speed StarLink into its E-145s.

  • Bombardier CR7 and CR9 and Embraer E175s have Gogo (‘SlowGo’ or ‘NoGo’) air-to-ground service. Gogo air-to-ground was revolutionary in 2008, and acceptable in 2012. Now it’s barely usable. Delta is putting high speed internet into its similar jets, and will make that service free.

I book away from American Airlines regional jets because of non-functional internet, which means several hours where I’m less productive. The cost to flying an American Airlines regional jet is my productivity. Unfortunately the bulk of new destinations flown on American from Austin are on these regional jets. Even several hub flights like Miami and Chicago are operated – at least on some flights – by these RJs.

American promised free inflight messaging at Investor and Media Day in September 2017. When I asked a year later why they hadn’t rolled this out, they acted like they’d never heard of such a thing. The announcement was made without having been fully vetted internally, and leadership balked at the expense. I haven’t heard anything about a project to spend money on better internet, especially as Delta extends the push to make internet free.

However I can’t be alone. While most passengers may buy tickets on American, expecting functional internet and not distinguishing between aircraft and their wifi capabilities (and so American may not take a revenue hit in the short run), non-functional internet certainly will impact satisfaction scores and likelihood to repurchase.

When US Airways finally decided to add inflight wifi (Gogo) a decade ago, they explained the delay and ultimate decision as,

  • They didn’t move forward because they saw it as an expense, and not something they’d make money on
  • Until they saw that customers were actually booking away – they were losing ticket sales – without internet

That’s the place American Airlines will find itself in with its regional jets, as technology passes them by. They have excellent internet in their domestic mainline aircraft. Their widebody aircraft not yet as much, and their regional planes it’s unusable. There’s a plan to address internet in the widebodies, but those regional jets desperately need attention.

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. […] ViaSat: Boeing 737 (and 737 MAX); Airbus A321; Legacy American Airlines A319 Intelsat 2ku: Airbus A320, legacy US Airways A319 Intelsat Air to Ground (“SlowGo”): Embraer E-170 and E-175, Bombardier CR7, CR9 regional jets; Panasonic: Boeing 787_-8 and -9), Boeing 777 (-200 and -300ER) No wifi: Embraer E-145 regional jets (American really needs to fix this) […]


  1. The only advantage of GOGO is that it gives TMobile customers free access. Hopefully the TMobile program will be expanded to the rest of AA’s internet.

  2. Retrofitting inflight internet is a multi-year capex expense on a dying fleet. Not gonna happen. Most of the ERJ flights are well under one hour air time anyways.

    Definitely need to upgrade the 170/175 and CRJ a/c, at least if they plan to keep them around.

  3. Stop flying regional jets.

    I used to fly predominantly on regional jets, then I switched careers into something a lot more prestigious. I haven’t flown on a regional jet in years.

    Lesson learned: regional jets are for low value, low socioeconomic status flyers such as salespeople. High value routes like SFO-EWR get the widebody treatment because they accommodate flyers who actually make a difference in the business world. Attorneys, investors, and leaders.

    I’ve had the privilege of sitting next to and learning from billionaires on transcontinental mainline flights. My last memory of a regional jet was sitting next to a pudgy IBM middle manager who requested a double rum and coke. Like, two shots of rum in one cup. Classless.

  4. @Philz …Although I’m not sure I agree with your assessment on its entirety, there is a bit of truth there. Seriously, I just couldn’t stop laughing. Just can’t lol! Perfectly written prose!

  5. Gary, never mind the Wi-Fi, AA should put PILOTS in regional aircraft. Due to the regional pilot shortage, routes that were once non-stop are now connecting. A one-hour flight is now a five-hour or so journey. For some routes, that scenario is about to enter year four without any restoration in the foreseeable future. Accepting the situation for what it is, I have moved on and am quite happy.

  6. Philz, nice troll, but I’ll bite. I’m a project manager in the engineering services world and I’m on one of these regional jets every other week after connecting in DFW or CLT. Meeting with utilities all over and flying into the closest airport next to remote project sites means regional jets are guaranteed. Functional internet would certainly be nice, allowing us to continue to provide the power and infrastructure that allows you to conduct your ‘business’.

  7. My favorite is Escargogo.

    Spot on. Technology developed in 2006 has no place on any fleet. It was outdated by 2012…

  8. “It’s Time For American Airlines To Put Better Internet Into Regional Jets”

    Hardly. Regional jet flights are shorter than mainline aircraft flights so the customer benefit is lower. The installation cost ($200k-$300k) is comparable to a 737-scale installation, but the number of passengers to amortize it over is less.

    And the price of the product is going down, making the return to AA lower.

    Better to invest the money elsewhere.

    Do you have any evidence that this is an important determinant of airline choice on regional jet routes?

    Absence of Internet does not even stop you working. You work offline.

  9. I want high speed internet on RJs the way I want free delicious snacks in coach. Would I like them? Sure. Would it change my travel decisions? No. Which is probably why these things don’t usually exist.

  10. Gary hit the nail on the head; regardless the aircraft, time is money when traveling for business. Business travelers should at least have the option to be productive while in transit and in today’s world, that equates to staying connected. Sad but true

  11. Instead of investing in internet I’d rather AA invest in things that more RJ passengers would care about like:

    1. Eliminating all walk-out gates (who wants to walk to a plane in PHL or CLT in while it’s raining, snowing or 10-degrees?

    2. Improving the space for carry-on bags on the aircraft to eliminate gate-checked carry-ons. UA is doing it with the CRJ 550 and DL has upgauged the overhead space on some of their aircraft.

    3. Eliminate the absurd ERJ 140/5 series and the CRJ100/200 line. Nothing more than medieval torture devices.

    Handle that, then we can talk about their crappy wi-fi.

  12. It is unconscionable to charge us $50 a month for a product that is barely usable. It’s time, AA. Either charge us less or make the product better.

  13. I fly out of Hartford and need to be productive when I fly. The rest of my work team flies on Delta out of other airports. I have yet to have had a flight with fulling working Wi-Fi that lasts the entire flight. So every one else on my team is working and communicating with each other and I’m silent. As a platinum pro flyer on AA, I’m considering going to Delta.

  14. “Book away from regional jets” is a little bit “let-them-eat-cake-ish”, lol. The point of a REGIONAL jet is that it tends to fly to smaller airports that can’t support higher volumes. There are some routes with mainline overlap, sure, but not a ton.

    I fly these pretty much weekly right now, but the alternative is…uh…oh, wait, there isn’t one. So I plan to have 90 minutes of poor connectivity and then hit the ground running. I do survive.

    If AA wants to dump a ton of capex into these planes, then I’ll not be unhappy! Just not expecting it to happen.

    Also, to the people saying that regional jets are for schlubs, there is a LOT of money in some of these smaller destinations. Examples include university towns and places with big manufacturing setups. While the volumes aren’t there (don’t need 300 seats 5x / day), these routes often sell out at very high ticket prices. Cash cows with a captive audience and little competition, how much better does it get for a profit-seeking business?

    [Also, I’m different from the first poster with the same handle as me]

  15. You’re on an airplane. You’re in the sky at 20,000+ feet and going close to 500 mph. Why would anyone need internet access? Sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight.

  16. 50 seaters don’t need it aka ERJ-145/CRJ200, the “high speed” Viasat has just introduced a small enough version to be used on 2 class RJs but GOGO was the only operational option. AA has been a leader in adding HighSpeed internet on mainline jets, going to refit their international fleet, much more important then on a 1 and 30 minutes regional jet fleet, which will be updated soon. If you firm can’t live without you for and hour and a half, you’ve got bigger issues. BTW, DL has never announced making a change to their RJ so. . . . and DL still has a lot of GOGO mainline jets.

    Nice idea, good marketing but again bad execution. . .that’s today’s Delta.

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