By Quentin Fottrell
Hyper-connected travelers have occasionally copped to the guilty pleasure of spending a few in-flight hours blissfully removed from email and the internet. Those days are waning: Airline travelers are expected to pay a collective $606 million on in-flight Wi-Fi by 2015, almost four times more than the $155 million spent this year, according to a study by In-Stat released Thursday.
Paying for in-flight Wi-Fi has been slow to take off – only a handful of airlines offer it, and just 7% of airline passengers have bought it so far this year. But that’s nearly double the 4% who bought on-board WiFi in 2010, and interest is expected to pick up as more airlines add Wi-Fi capabilities. Smartphones and other devices are helping drive demand, too, says Amy Cravens, a senior analyst with In-Stat.
How much you’ll pay varies by airline. Gogo, which supplies Wi-Fi to over half-a-dozen North American airlines, offers unlimited in-flight Wi-Fi for $39.95 per month or $12.95 for a 24-hour pass for its all participating airlines. But there are also ways to cut your bill. Delta, for example, offers 15% discounts for 24 hours of unlimited Internet on all Wi-Fi-enabled Delta flights and offers a monthly $34.95 fee.
Even if you pay full price, a few bucks to send an email to your kids, upload vacation pictures on your way home or stream Netflix on your iPad is an easy way to dull the pain of hours spent squeezed into a tiny airline seat — and much cheaper than forking over for extra leg room. “Inflight Wi-Fi may be optional, but for those of us on long transcontinental flights it’s a necessity,” says Kate Hanni, founder of FlyersRights.org