A New Jersey woman is suing United Airlines for $5 million, claiming she was misled when she paid $7.99 for four hours of service that lasted only 10 minutes, media reports say.
In the class-action lawsuit, filed in March, Cary M. David says she bought DirecTV service to watch videos on a flight to Puerto Rico, which she never was able to do. Why? Because Wi-Fi works only over the continental U.S.
David claims she wasn't given proper notice before she bought the service. United has filed papers to have the case dismissed, Gothamist.com reports. (United explains on its website when and where Wi-Fi will work on its flights.)
However this case plays out, one thing seems to be pretty obvious: Airplane Wi-Fi is unbelievably frustrating to fliers who want to believe it is otherwise.
So whom can you trust? Adam Clark Estes, for starters. He posted an excellent story on Gizmodo this week that ranks nine North American airlines for the "relative dependability, speed and value" of their respective Wi-Fi service.
JetBlue came out on top with something called Ka-band technology that delivers speedy service. The downside: There's no guarantee it will be available on your flight, Estes writes.
He also profiles No. 2 Virgin America (using Gogo ATG-4 service), No. 3 Delta ("neck-and-neck with Virgin," also Gogo ATG-4) and No. 4 Southwest ("pretty...great Wi-Fi setup").
Estes walks readers through the basics of how Wi-Fi works on planes and what newer and better technology may be coming in the future.
Until then, here's what you're up against, according to Estes:
"First of all, you can’t know exactly what kind of Wi-Fi your plane will offer until you know your flight number," Estes writes. "Then, even if you fly on an airline that promises Wi-Fi on all flights, each plane has different equipment installed. And even then, there’s a chance that equipment could be broken.
"You can check your flight's Wi-Fi status on the airline’s website before you book or head to the airport. Then, you just have to hope for the best."