Business Treaveler logo

Travel news, reviews and intel for high-flyers

American Airlines’ Pricey Annual Wi-Fi Plan Raises Questions

Bucking trends for free onboard Wi-Fi, American Airlines is instead launching a $599 annual internet subscription that only works on its narrowbody planes

by Lauren Smith

August 28, 2023

American Airlines Premium Economy. Photo: Courtesy of American Airlines

American Airlines has unveiled a new pricing option for its onboard Wi-Fi: a $599 annual subscription allowing frequent flyers to connect a single device. For an additional $100 per year, travelers can extend the service to a second device, too.

However, travelers are scratching their heads at the offer. While competitors are increasingly offering free onboard Wi-Fi or charging under $10 per flight for connectivity, American has continued to charge customers over $20 to connect a single device for a single flight.

Frequent flyers can save money by signing up for a $49.95 monthly subscription. However, it only covers the ViaSat and Intelsat internet installed on the narrowbody planes American Airlines uses on domestic flights.

American Airlines traveler reclining in First Class / Photo: American Airlines

The widebody jets that fly on international routes and a few long-haul domestic journeys have internet from Panasonic and aren’t covered by the subscription.

The new $599 annual subscription isn’t cheaper than the proposed $49.95 monthly subscription, which totals $599.40 per year. Will travelers want to pay a measly 40 cents of savings upfront? American Airlines seems to think so.

A spokesperson for the carrier said, “Our new annual Wi-Fi subscriptions were launched for convenience for our frequent travelers who are always looking to stay connected while inflight. The new subscription also allows American to support our business travelers and corporate partners looking for a more seamless way to purchase and access Wi-Fi for themselves and for their employees.”

If you don’t want to pay $600 for a year of spotty airplane Wi-Fi, you can sign up for one of T-Mobile’s Magenta plans instead. Magenta MAX customers will receive unlimited Wi-Fi on narrowbody planes outfitted with ViaSat or Intelsat, while Magenta plan customers can choose four flights per year on which they receive unlimited Wi-Fi. On other flights, they’ll get one hour of free Wi-Fi.