American Airlines

Why I hate Viasat Wi-Fi on American Airlines

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In late 2016, American Airlines announced a long-term transition away from Gogo’s in-flight Wi-Fi service to Viasat.

I can’t recall if this was a contractual dispute or American trying to provide faster Wi-Fi. Admittedly, Gogo’s legacy in-flight Wi-Fi is horribly slow. However, Gogo has been rolling out a newer version of their system called Gogo 2Ku which I’ve used various times and have had blazing fast speed.

It seems, best as I can tell, that most new and retrofitted aircraft are getting Viasat, although some planes being upgraded are getting Gogo 2Ku and a handful have Panasonic’s awful system.

So why do I care about the rollout of Viasat? Why do I hate it so much?

It’s because I can get free Gogo access, even on the newer, faster Gogo 2Ku network, two different ways. I have the American Express Platinum card (Learn More), which provides 10 wifi passes per year as a card benefit. But they only work on Gogo. Additionally, I have T-Mobile as my cell phone carrier. T-Mobile has a deal with Gogo where I can get my first hour free as well as free texting all flight long for free, just as a part of my plan. But again, only on Gogo.

Customer service via Viasat chat is also noticeably less friendly than Gogo.

This definitely hurts the American Express Business Platinum benefit. Perhaps one day they’ll announce a partnership with Viasat?

It’s no different than why I avoid United flights if all else is equal (price and airports), because they use their own Wi-Fi system that I’d have to pay for and I’d prefer to have my free Gogo Wi-Fi.

I started my travels home on American Airlines last night. I had free Gogo Wi-Fi on the flight from Nassau, Bahamas to Miami. After an unanticipated overnight in Miami and reboarding a new flight the today, I tried to login only to find that this flight is on Viasat and it would be $12 if I wanted to get some work done on the 2 hour flight back to NYC.

As an aside, both Gogo and Viasat have a roaming agreement with Boingo. I have a Boingo account via my American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Business card (Learn More). I could also have the same via my American Express Business Platinum card (Learn More). But neither Wi-Fi provider accepts credit card provided Boingo (which, incidentally, is the only time I’d ever need it). Neither plan states this clearly, nor does the onboard roaming login make it clear you have a Boingo account that simply isn’t eligible. It frustratingly just won’t let you login. I have since confirmed the reason why is the reason above.

Summary:

I see no difference in speed between Viasat and the newer Gogo 2Ku. What I do see is a terrible feeling of getting ripped off every time I encounter a non-Gogo provider on board because I’m increasingly anchored to free Wi-Fi when traveling.  If you have a monthly AA Wi-fi plan it will work across providers, but everyone else is out in the cold.

Granted, I’m also writing this from one of American’s new 737 MAX airplanes, arguably one of the least passenger friendly planes in the sky, so I’m just not sure how much they care about the passenger experience.

Still, while I’m sure they’ve already signed all the contracts long ago and this conversion is a done deal, I do think it’s a net negative for American Airlines passengers.