Headlines blare “American Airlines offers satellite WiFi to its entire mainline fleet” and therefore “You Shouldn’t Have to Struggle for a Good Connection”.
I think it’s great that American Airlines has invested in faster satellite internet for most of its domestic narrowbody aircraft. Many customers don’t like that it’s been a package deal to go along with no seat back entertainment, with most passengers stuck streaming content to their phones with seat power still years off on many aircraft. Legacy US Airways A321s will have this by the end of 2020, and Airbus A320s by the end of 2021 because CEO Doug Parker “thought they could live with” not offering power to passengers.
However coverage of American Airlines completing its project to add satellite wifi to planes is being overclaimed.
- MD80 aircraft, being retired this year, do not have satellite wifi.
- Embraer E-190s, which are part of the mainline fleet, do not have satellite wifi. They are slated to leave the fleet in 2020.
- Boeing 757s have a hodge podge of systems. Legacy American aircraft are equipped with Panasonic (slow) satellite internet, because these were intended as overwater aircraft. Some legacy US Airways planes have been given Gogo 2Ku, while others do not have internet at all. These aircraft are increasingly used as part of the domestic mainline fleet, for instance American sends Boeing 757s with flat seats up front New York JFK – Dallas Fort Worth.
American’s international fleet offers Panasonic satellite internet which, while beamed from a satellite, is excruciatingly slow and has been unusable across the Atlantic.
American Airlines is my primary choice of carrier domestically, and a big reason is the ability to do work on board at least if you’re in a first class seat thanks to fast wifi (there are too few Main Cabin Extra extra legroom seats and even those have been squeezed of legroom in the new domestic ‘Oasis’ configuration).
However it’s important to understand what product is being offered, and how it is not true that all domestic mainline flights not have fast satellite internet, just that American has finished installing fast satellite internet. Some planes won’t ever get it. And some planes have slow and unusable satellite internet.
Meanwhile regional jets will continue to offer slower air to ground internet. They aren’t large enough for the size radome satellite requires. However American’s two cabin regional jets — CR7s, CR9s, and ERJ-175s — should all have seat power by the end of this year, far in advance of legacy US Airways narrowbodies.