The Complete Guide to United’s Inflight Wi-Fi Service

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U.S. carriers began rolling out inflight internet services nearly a decade ago and have been slowly improving the experience. Now, it is almost expected that these airlines will have Wi-Fi on their flights.

While some carriers like Delta Air Lines exclusively use Gogo inflight internetUnited Airlines does not use a consistent Wi-Fi provider.

Let’s dig into what kind of Wi-Fi service you can expect on your flights with United.

Which United Aircraft Have Wi-Fi?

United has fitted almost all of its aircraft with Wi-Fi capability. The exceptions are aircraft based in Guam and some of their CRJ-700 aircraft. However, United plans to finish fitting all of their regional aircraft sometime in 2017.

United Wi-Fi Coverage Map
Make sure you check United’s Wi-Fi coverage map before your international flights. Image courtesy of United.

Within the continental U.S., Wi-Fi is limited to flights on United’s Boeing 737 aircraft and some of their Boeing 757-300s.

Other than that, United’s mainline aircraft offer inflight Wi-Fi for the duration of your flight, even when traveling abroad.

However, coverage is limited when traveling over polar regions and over some countries that have regulations restricting inflight Wi-Fi access.

Who Provides Wi-Fi for United?

United utilizes several providers for its inflight Wi-Fi service. On some transcontinental routes with premium service, Gogo provides inflight internet.

If you want to know if your flight will be served by Gogo, follow these steps:

  1. Search for your flight on United’s site
  2. Navigate to the Details page
  3. Find the Amenities section

Is United’s Wi-Fi Reliable?

Reliability has long been an issue for inflight internet services. While providers have been working with airlines to improve both speed and reliability, you can still expect slow speeds (if not failing Wi-Fi) on some of your flights.

If you have important work that can only be done with Wi-Fi, don’t plan your day around doing it inflight.

Can You Stream Video?

Unfortunately, you will not be able to stream video inflight, even on Wi-Fi. This means that Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, and other video streaming services will not work.

While you won’t be able to stream video while browsing the internet, select flights on United do have DIRECTV with a selection of movies, TV shows, and live TV options. This service is only available in the continental U.S.

Video and audio conferencing are also prohibited on United flights, so no Skype or FaceTime.

How Much Is Wi-Fi on United?

The cost of using Wi-Fi on United will vary by flight. However, if your flight is equipped with Gogo inflight internet, there will be standard pricing.

Gogo Wi-Fi Pricing

Gogo Subscription Plans
If you travel regularly, it might make sense to purchase a Gogo subscription plan.

You have several options for purchasing Wi-Fi with Gogo. If you fly regularly, you can purchase a subscription plan.

Gogo In-flight Subscription Plans
Monthly Airline Plan$49.95 per month
2-Device Plan$59.95 per month
Monthly Multi-Airline Plan$59.95 per month
Global Multi-Airline Plan$79.95 per month
Annual Airline Plan$599.00 per month
Annual Multi-Airline Plan$719.00 per month

Based on your travel needs, you can choose a plan that works best for you. Make sure you check the details of each plan before making a decision.

If your United flight will have Gogo inflight internet, you can also purchase an internet pass 48 hours prior to departure. The advance purchase price is cheaper than if you buy access to Wi-Fi once on board.

How to Offset Wi-Fi Costs

Those who have The Business Platinum® Card from American Express receive 10 single use Gogo passes. These passes can be used on United flights that are operating Gogo inflight internet.

The US Bank FlexPerks® Visa Signature® Card also provides 12 one-time passes per calendar year.

Unfortunately, travel credits and airline fee credits provided by cards such as The Platinum Card® from American Express will not cover inflight Gogo Wi-Fi costs. However, if the flight has United’s new Wi-Fi portal you can use the Platinum® Card to offset that cost IF you have selected United as your airline for the year. Remember, The Platinum Card gives you an annual credit of $200 to use on whichever airline you’ve chosen for that year!

However, the airline fee credit provided by the Chase Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card will reimburse you for inflight internet. Unlike other travel credits, this one is not automatic. Instaed, you must call the number on the back of the card or send Chase a secure message from your account to request the statement credit for reimbursement.

Redeem United Miles for Wi-Fi

Flights equipped with United’s new Wi-Fi portal allow you to redeem MileagePlus miles to purchase Wi-Fi access. However, this is a terrible use of your hard-earned United miles!

At a minimum, we value United miles at 1.4 cents per mile. If you redeem miles for Wi-Fi, you won’t even get 1 cent per mile.

You’d definitely be better off saving your miles for future flights.

Is Buying Wi-Fi Worth It?

Whether buying Wi-Fi is worth it to you is going to be a personal decision. If staying connected to friends during flights makes the flying experience more enjoyable, then it might be worth it to you.

If you’re hoping to get a little extra work done (or you employer is paying for it), it might also be worth it. Just remember that the Wi-Fi might not be as reliable as you need it to be for important work projects.

Save your money if you won’t use Wi-Fi much on a flight, or you’re happy to sleep or watch entertainment provided by United for free.

Of course, if you have one-time use Gogo passes thanks to The Business Platinum® Card from American Express or the US Bank FlexPerks® Visa Signature® Card, it might be an easier decision.

Additionally, if you have the Chase Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card to offset the cost of Wi-FI through its airline fee credit, it might be worth it.

Final Thoughts

Inflight internet has a long way to go before we can truly rely on it. We still can’t stream video nearly 10 years after its introduction! Gogo and other providers are working to make this a possibility, but we’re not there yet.

With United, specifically, we’d like to see a consistent and reliable product across its fleet so people can feel confident in their decision to purchase Wi-Fi.

On the credit card side of things, banks could really improve the travel credits and airline fee credits offered on high-end cards by making inflight internet eligible for reimbursement.

Spencer Howard

About Spencer Howard

Always a fan of flying, it was only natural that Spencer was drawn to finding a way to improve the travel experience. Like many, he started this journey searching for cheap flights to take him around the world. This was fun for a while, but Spencer was intrigued by the idea of flying in business and first class! Throwing himself into what became an extensive research project, Spencer spent 3-4 hours per night learning everything he could about frequent flyer miles over the course of several months (he thinks this is normal).

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13 comments

  1. Matt Leppala · August 26, 2018 · Reply

    Slightly inaccurate information in your comment of:
    “Unfortunately, travel credits and airline fee credits provided by cards such as The Platinum Card® from American Express will not cover inflight Wi-Fi costs”

    You will be reimbursed by AMEX automatically (up to $200/year) if for example you selected United as your preferred airline and are using United WiFi. If you did not receive a credit just live chat/call and they will take care of you.

    • Hey Matt – If the WiFi provider is “Gogo”, Amex won’t reimburse you for charges made to them. But yes, if it’s United WiFi they will – I’ll clarify that point. Thank you!

  2. Any idea on the pricing for an international flight?

  3. Does United block audio streams (Spotify, TuneIn, etc.) as well as video streams? Flying during a sporting event and was thinking about buying wifi to listen to the radio call, if it would work.

    • Stephen Au · November 25, 2018 · Reply

      Hey Jason,

      On 737 MAX aircraft with Viasat, you might have better luck. Streaming is blocked on other aircraft due to the huge bandwidth requirements.

    • John w · July 7, 2019 · Reply

      I would bet if you get an SSL VPN like pia(private internet access) you can bypass blocks assuming the VPN connects. VPN connects over ports normally used for secure payment forms /SSL websites. It forms an encrypted tunnel to a specific server then routes all your traffic through that. So as long as VPN connects you are then good to go. There are several types but the one I suggested is ideal due to it using normal web connection ports. I.e. harder to block without cutting off parts of the web.

  4. I spent nearly an hour on the phone with a United call center person and the supervisor, trying to find out the cost of wifi access per flight, which is not listed on the United website. Both wasted a lot of time checking and then admitted they didn’t have the prices, because “it varies depending on the length of the flight.” FYI, I flew EZE to IAH and IAH to NRT in April, 2019. One was a 10-hour flight and the other was a 13-hour flight, and the prices were the same: $9.99/hr, $13.99/2hrs., or $26.99 for the full flight. On the IAH to NRT flight, wifi worked for the first 2 hours or so, then was down for the remainder of the flight.

    • Hey TW, yep – it’s true that United wifi pricing it is variable, depending on route and usage so two flights of the same length can have different prices.

      Additionally, it’s generally very common for wifi to go out over an ocean since there are two types airlines usually use: air-to-ground (or tower based, like Gogo) and satellite. Only the satellite version allows for over-ocean wifi.

  5. Any plans in the works to get on Starlink or a similar leo service? Seems like it could alleviate both bandwidth and latency issues of current geosync systems. Also I’m not sure it’s a technical invitation of the author or style choice but you could do the public a favor by introducing to them that it’s not a Wi-Fi satellite. Not expecting you to talk about frequency bands but you could at least call it the data link that connects to Wi-Fi. You went to great lengths to dumb this down. Would argue it’s not a great thing when we live in a society control and dominated by technology, almost no one understands it. But you can’t hope they would when everything is PR and or marketing spew for the target audience of new adult Child Left Behind. It’s kind of disturbing to me that a good portion of people I’ve met think cell phones connect to satellites (for calls and data) and true, they technically receive one way space to ground GPS… but that’s not what’s going on in these people’s heads.

    • Christine Krzyszton · July 14, 2019 · Reply

      Hi John. We are not affiliated with United or their Wi-Fi providers so do not have insight as to upcoming changes. This article was written for our average reader and you certainly have knowledge of this technology far beyond that of the average reader. It’s true that most travelers just want the Wi-Fi to work well during the flight and do not generally care about the underlying technology. They’re also interested in how they can offset the cost of in-flight Wi-Fi, therefore the tone of the article. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  6. I have not been able to connect to wifi on my last two flight in 2019, even just to look at the free stuff. It just won’t connect. I have a Samsung Note 8, which is still pretty up to date and has the United app gets updated regularly. I just can’t figure out why it won’t connect. Is it something that is missing in the software of my phone? I do connect to wifi all the time at home and at places that offer wifi. I did connect on an Alaska flight back in March.

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