Alaska Airlines to upgrade to faster satellite-based Wi-Fi

An Alaska Airlines jet prepares to take off from Portland International Airport in Oregon. The Seattle-based airline plans to upgrade to satellite-based Wi-Fi, starting next year.
(Richard Derk /Los Angeles Times)

If you fly Alaska Airlines, your onboard Wi-Fi is expected to get up to 20 times faster under a plan to convert to a satellite-based Internet system.

The Seattle-based company plans to begin next year to turn away from an Internet system that bounces signals from ground-based towers to the planes in the air and instead install a technology that relies on satellites for Wi-Fi signals.

The new system is not only up to 20 times faster than the current system, but allows passengers to stay connected even when flying outside of the continental United States to places such as Hawaii, Mexico and Costa Rica.

Satellite-based Wi-Fi can also work when the planes are on the runway. With an air-to-ground system, passengers can’t connect to the Wi-Fi system until the plane reaches 10,000 feet.

Alaska Airlines’ current Wi-Fi system is provided by Chicago-based Gogo Inflight Internet, the same company that will provide the new satellite-based service.


Gogo’s satellite service is already offered on Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, Aeromexico and British Airways, among other large carriers.

Alaska Airlines plans to begin its conversion to the faster system in the first half of 2018, with hopes of expanding the service to all Alaska Airlines planes and those of Virgin America by early 2020. Alaska Airlines acquired Virgin America last year.

The airline now charges $16 a day to connect to onboard Wi-Fi, if you order the service before you fly. Alaska Airlines said the new price will be revealed in “the near future” but suggested the fare may drop under the faster Wi-Fi system.

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