What Do You Do When Inflight Internet Doesn’t Work?

I’ve been on flights where an announcement was made at the start of flight that the internet didn’t work — only to find that it worked just fine. That worked out great, not only was there internet but no one else was trying to use it so I had plenty of bandwidth.

I’ve also been on plenty of flights where internet doesn’t work and the crew was aware of this from the prior flight but didn’t say anything until we were up in the air. That’s frustrating because I’d have treated the half hour I was on the plane (on the ground, still with connectivity) differently.

When internet doesn’t work in the air the most crews can do is reset it, they won’t really be able to troubleshoot beyond that.

Recently I flew Washington Dulles – Austin on United and the internet didn’t work. Flight attendants reset the connection, but it still didn’t work. About halfway through the flight I managed to connect, was able to download some email one time, but couldn’t do anything beyond that.

Connectivity is one of the most important things in the air for me. Every hour matters, and I work all the time. Plenty of passengers see a flight as a way to disconnect. I see it as time alone where I can focus on getting things done. And much of what I need to get done involves getting online. I do keep plenty of entertainment on my laptop though so I don’t have to rely on an airline’s entertainment — to work, or to have anything I want to watch. United’s streaming entertainment wasn’t working either.

So I replied to my email receipt — the next day, because I couldn’t even download the receipt while I was inflight — and let Gogo know that I paid $12.99 for internet but never got it to work well enough to render a single web page. I asked for a refund.

Customer service replied,

I apologize for the issues you faced during your flight on [date]. I see that you had slow speed and low data usage on your pass. I was checking and according to my system there was an issue with the equipment onboard the plane. I’m going to open an incident in order to report the issues you faced and your account as well.

I’d like to offer you two 100% off codes that you can use on any future flight to connect totally for free, in case you’re not flying on American Ailrines. One to honor the pass you were unable to use and one due to all the hassle. This is in order to show you that I do care about the experience you had with the service.

I was impressed that they acknowledged I pay for Gogo monthly service on American Airlines. I asked for a refund and they offered me future use credit instead. I do fly airlines other than American (and Southwest, but their internet isn’t provided by Gogo) however I asked for and believe I should receive a refund. So I pressed back.

They replied – no dice – I get future use passes,

Thank you for contacting Gogo.

I’ve offered you codes due to the slow service issues you experienced. An alternative solution.

Now I get annoyed. I understand they offered me codes. However they charged me for something they did not provide. Keeping my money is not acceptable, so I insisted on a refund. They acknowledged this and did provide a refund.

Hello Gary,

We have processed a refund for your Gogo purchase on 11/15/2018 in the amount of $12.99.

Your refund confirmation number is: XXXXXXXXX

We sincerely hope you reconsider using our services again, the next time you fly.

If you have any further questions, we can be reached at 877-350-0038, 24/7. You can also contact us via Live Chat by clicking https://custhelp.gogoinflight.com while you’re in the air or on the ground.

Thank you,
Your Friend Luis at Gogo Customer Care

The refund was processed. They did also take back the future use passes that had been added to my account. That’s appropriate — I wanted a refund not passes, largely on principle — though the hassle it seems to me ought to have involved a refund and one future use pass (versus two) since Gogo acknwledged one fo the passes was for the inconvenience which was only magnified by their customer service.

The biggest reason I want to fly American, Delta, or Southwest over United is because I find their internet to be more reliable.

Should I have just taken the two passes, knowing they have greater value and that I’d certainly use them within a year, instead of insisting on a refund? What do you do when inflight internet doesn’t work?

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. Had they offered you a single pass instead of a refund, then it would make sense to request the refund.

    But when they doubled the credit, they thought they were being generous and they were. Assuming you still want to use their service, you should have asked if a refund were an option, then on learning it was an option, simply accept the double credit.

  2. I never use it, so it doesn’t change my behavior one bit.

    Though in your shoes I would’ve just kept the codes instead of pushing for a refund.

  3. I was on a United flight where the FAs announced once airborne that “we know from the inbound flight that the wifi doesn’t work.” I wrote to United Customer Care afterwards, saying that the FAs ought to have announced that before pushback, and ideally at the gate (where wifi availability was advertised), so passengers could plan accordingly. They gave me a $50 travel voucher. (I didn’t pay for the wifi–it was unavailable–so Gogo refund is n/a.)

  4. I’ve always had decent experience with United; either the internet works (although slowly) or I get a full refund. I asked about the monthly WiFi subscription a few months back, and the rep with whom I spoke suggested I wait until Q2 or Q3 2019. She wouldn’t elaborate other than to say it should be getting better soon.

  5. What do I do when the in-flight internet doesn’t work?

    Read the paperback book I have with on every flight.

    It amazes me that people allow themselves to be completely dependent on the internet & IFE working.

  6. I plan for work that doesn’t require the internet. I can write emails even if I can’t send them. I download what I need before a flight to be able to work on any ongoing project that doesn’t require the internet. Not that hard. Yes if you paid you should be refunded. But I don’t buy internet on flights unless there is a truly dire work situation.

  7. “I’ve also been on plenty of flights where internet doesn’t work and the crew was aware of this from the prior flight but didn’t say anything until we were up in the air. That’s frustrating because I’d have treated the half hour I was on the plane (on the ground, still with connectivity) differently.”

    Finnair did precisely this to me from New York to Helsinki. As soon as we took off and long before we reached 10,000 feet they announced that the internet on the plane wasn’t working.

  8. Gary,
    Being a hub captive here at DTW, I always keep an eye on my phone to see if I can use Gogo inflight. I have about a 50% success rate.

    And I agree with UA-NYC – get your cash back. Offering two vouchers for flimsy potential WiFi is grand larceny in my book.

    Let’s hope for all of us, that we will see improved WiFi service across the board, across the plane and amid all airlines!

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