The draconian restrictions on inflight Wi-Fi are easing up – at least on some airlines. Rather than ban streaming video in planes like most airlines, Virgin America is actively encouraging its customers to binge-watch their favorite programs on Netflix. A new partnership announced today between the airline and streaming service will make high-speed internet access free until March.
Before you get too excited, know that this doesn’t apply to all Virgin America flights, only new Airbus craft decked out with ViaSat’s Exede satellite-to-plane connectivity service. Virgin America traditionally has relied on Gogo for inflight Wi-Fi, but Gogo’s limited capacity has meant a slow and often expensive internet experience for travelers. ViaSat’s service, however, is built off the back of a super-satellite with 140 Gbps of total capacity, meaning its airline partners no longer have to be so stingy with their bandwidth.
A lot of airlines and inflight ISPs have been upgrading their aircraft and networks to support faster speeds. Gogo just boosted its own speeds with a new souped-up satellite service called 2Ku, and more airlines are starting to connect to ViaSat’s network. We’re still a long way from Wi-Fi in the sky becoming as fast and as cheap as Wi-Fi on the ground, but the internet experience at 35,000 feet is getting better.