Internet during a flight: how it works and what options there are

We live surrounded by the Internet practically everywhere. However, there is a situation in which things change radically: when taking a flight. It is not always possible to have a connection and when we do we cannot enjoy the same benefits that we would have on a bus or train trip, for example. In this article we are going to talk about how to have Internet on a plane , what options there are and we will also talk about the current difficulties that we are going to encounter.

Having connection on a flight is not easy

Internet during a flight

The first thing you should keep in mind is that having an Internet connection on a flight is not an easy task . In fact, today on the vast majority of flights you can take you will not have Internet. Only some operators offer it and not on all routes. It is something that is going to be limited, although it is true that in recent years we have seen a slight advance in this regard.

We can think that in the era of 5G, of finding Wi-Fi networks practically anywhere, of the Internet of Things, we will be able to have a connection on a flight, even if it is within the same country. But the truth is that it is a complicated situation, due to infrastructure costs and the difficulty in being able to offer a connection.

Therefore, we can say that having a network on an airplane is not something that is widely available today. It is to be hoped that in a few years things will change and little by little we will be able to see more airlines that are encouraged to offer Internet to their clients and also better than what we currently have.

Does this mean that it is impossible to connect to the Internet on a plane? No way. There are even airlines that offer Internet in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, thousands of kilometers from land. But it is true that it is very limited and it is also usually quite expensive for customers.

Mejor velocidad de Internet móvil

How does an airplane have internet

To have Internet on a plane basically we are going to have two options: terrestrial antennas and satellites. On some occasions, a plane can use both alternatives on the same route, while other times, for obvious reasons, they will only be able to connect to satellites. In both cases we are going to have many difficulties and it will not always be available.

terrestrial antennas

The first option is the simplest and cheapest. Basically it consists of the plane having different antennas at the bottom and it is going to connect to terrestrial antennas that are on the ground. By going through those antennas with a cellular connection, the aircraft can get a signal and then spread it throughout the aircraft as a Wi-Fi connection from anywhere.

This is known as Air to Ground . Don’t expect much. You will have an Internet connection, but the speed will be very limited. In addition, it is usually quite unstable so it is normal for the network to come and go depending on where exactly the plane is passing at that moment. He thinks that he travels a great distance in a short time.

There will be an important difference between passing near an urban area, where there will be more antennas available, and a more desert area. It’s the same thing that can happen when you’re on the road and you see the coverage come and go, but with even more differences. It should also be borne in mind that mobile antennas are mainly designed to offer a connection at ground level and that even when we climb skyscrapers, problems begin to arise.


The second option is to get Internet via satellite . This is much more expensive, but at the same time it makes the connection more stable and faster. It is logically the only option that can be on a flight from Europe to America, for example. We can say that it is the future of connections in aviation and it is what will spread the most in the coming years.

The aircraft use a system of antennas that are responsible for establishing a connection with the satellites. Those satellites, in turn, are connected to a system on the ground. The speed can reach 70 Mbps, so it will be much higher than the previous option. But of course, think that hundreds of passengers can go on a plane, so things get complicated to really have a great speed.

This option also provides much more stability. It will not constantly disconnect and connect to the antennas. It will allow us to even have access to the Internet continuously to, for example, make an online call. This is what we will see more and more in the coming years.

Internet cada vez es más seguro

Limited and expensive access

Although there are airlines that offer free connection, it is usually limited to a data bonus that you can buy and it is usually quite expensive . To give you an idea, something normal is to pay €10 for 50 MB or €5 for 10 MB. Without a doubt, it is something very scarce and that practically does not give us anything.

However, some airlines are beginning to sell somewhat more “unlimited” vouchers . For example, pay an amount, which can be 5 or 10 euros, and be able to use WhatsApp during the flight. You will not be able to navigate or use other applications, but at least you will maintain communication. Interesting for example for a 10 hour flight.

But there are very limited cases in which they offer Internet during the flight for free and also without you having to worry about consumption. Of course, the speed is going to be horrible. Even if you wanted to, you weren’t going to be able to consume much more than messages you send via WhatsApp, an email or a web page that you open, with difficulty, in the browser.

In addition, in many cases they will limit certain uses . For example, you will not be able to play videos from YouTube or Netflix. They do this to avoid running out of bandwidth and making it impossible to even send a message. Think of a plane with 300 people and everyone trying to watch a YouTube video.

If you are going to take a flight and they offer you a free bonus of 10 MB, something that is common in certain airlines, be careful because simply opening the browser and clicking on a couple of websites can melt them. what to do in that case? Our advice is that you previously install a firewall that blocks all connections. You will only give them access to WhatsApp, for example, and thus you will be able to communicate with other people throughout the flight, but you will not use up the fare. Of course, also check that you have removed the automatic download of photos and videos that you receive.

In short, as you have seen, it is not easy today to have Internet on a flight. Although it is possible and there are certain airlines that offer this, the truth is that the speed is going to be very limited and the quality of the signal is usually not the best. We will have to wait a few more years to see that we can really have a connection during a flight and everything indicates that satellite Internet is going to be the key to being able to achieve it.