Only 4% Of Passengers Use In-Flight Wi-Fi

Moneybox
A blog about business and economics.
Dec. 27 2011 10:13 AM

Nobody Likes In-Flight WiFi

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FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - SEPTEMBER 27: AirTran airplanes are seen on the tarmac at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on September 27, 2010 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

As a professional blogger who also loves to travel, I'm always excited when flights offer in-flight wifi services, typically from Gogo, and I'm willing to pay oft-extortionate fees to use it. But with GoGo poised for an Initial Public Offering we're now getting information about the actual state of the service and it turns out to be pretty unpopular with only 4 percent of passengers on GoGo equipped flights logging on. 

In a sense you can take that as a good sign for the company because it means it has plenty of room for intensive growth on already-equipped planes as well as extensive growth with installation on new planes. On the other hand, the low uptake rate casts the sometimes questionable quality of the service in a stark light. If these are the speeds you get with 4 percent of users logging on, what would 15 percent look like? Already I find Amtrak wifi to be non-competitive in terms of quality with simply using 3G tethering through my phone.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.