Internet connectivity has become such an integral aspect of our lives that it is almost unimaginable that we would be unable to access it regardless of our location. But what if we go by aircraft and land at 30,000 feet? It’s aggravating when you’re forced to turn off your gadgets on aircraft, particularly on lengthy trips. The good news is that an increasing number of airlines now provide an in-flight wireless internet connection, allowing you to check your email, browse the web, or watch movies. Here is how Wi-Fi works on an airplane.
Planes are equipped with antennae that enable them to pick up Wi-Fi signals from either ground stations or satellites. The plane communicates with ground stations through antennae mounted on the bottom of the fuselage. The airplane connects to the closest transmitter on a rolling basis as it flies. The aircraft transforms into a hotspot, allowing passengers to access the internet, write emails, make phone calls, and even stream movies. The primary disadvantage of ground station in-flight Wi-Fi is that it cannot be used while the aircraft is flying over water or hilly terrain, which is when airplanes utilize satellites.
Satellite Wi-Fi establishes connections through a network of orbiting satellites. The airplane communicates with the satellite through antennae mounted on the aircraft’s fuselage. While traveling, the aircraft makes use of whatever satellite is closest. In-flight Wi-Fi powered by communication satellites is a more advanced service with enhanced coverage and speed.
Wi-Fi is available on almost all American Airlines domestic and international flights. It is a fee-based service available on local and international flights. If you purchase in-flight Wi-Fi before boarding your trip, it is less expensive. American Airlines provides pre-flight Wi-Fi packages exclusively for domestic flights; foreign flights are not included. An all-day pass costs $16 in advance, $12 on board, and $19 for the duration of a single trip. Passes purchased in advance are valid for 12 months from the date of purchase.
Because wireless coverage is usually unavailable across the ocean, you may have a weak connection and a depleted battery when your device attempts and fails to connect. The speed of in-flight Wi-Fi is dependent on the provider and service selected, as well as whether the aircraft is linked through satellite or ground-based towers. According to Speedtest, the average broadband connection in the United States had a download speed of 12.03 MB/s and an upload speed of 4.11 MB/s.
Fortunately, the airline intends to upgrade Wi-Fi on its whole fleet of narrow-body aircraft to faster satellite-based service by the end of 2019. American Airlines is updating its Wi-Fi to Gogo’s (one of the biggest in-flight Wi-Fi providers) new 2Ku technology, which can provide up to 70 gigabytes per second, which is much quicker than the typical land connection.
Certain airlines have started providing passengers with complimentary access to major social networking applications such as Facebook Messenger, iMessage, and WhatsApp. Additionally, you will be able to view movies, television programs, and live television for free from your own devices. Only passengers wishing to send and receive emails and use the web will be required to buy a Wi-Fi package.
In-flight Wi-Fi services are quite similar to public Wi-Fi found in malls, coffee shops, and other public locations. Airlines’ in-flight WiFi networks are neither encrypted nor password-secured, making your personal information readily available to hackers. Through a public network, malware and viruses may infect your device, providing a chance for a hostile attacker. Gogo, the leading supplier of in-flight internet and entertainment, advises customers to “avoid accessing or transmitting sensitive or private information.”
There are many measures you may take to safeguard your privacy while utilizing in-flight Wi-Fi.
- Update your firewalls: Before departing on a vacation, ensure that all of your device’s firewalls, antivirus, and anti-spyware software are up to date.
- Utilize a VPN (virtual private network). This is the most effective method of safeguarding your personal information and gadgets. All data transmitted or received will be encrypted and secured, making it impossible for attackers to gain access to your device.
- Utilize two-factor authentication, or better yet, a U2F (universal two-factor) physical security key. This kind of security will thwart unauthorized access.
- Select the public Wi-Fi network. You have the option to select “Home, Work, or Public” in your computer’s settings. When you choose a public network, file sharing is disabled and your machine is hidden from other computers.
- Avoid fake WiFi networks: Hackers are sometimes capable of creating authentic-looking WiFi networks. When you join such a network, it is quite easy for your data to be stolen.
- At the top of your browser, you’ll see an image of a lock, indicating that your browser is utilizing HTTPS. The website’s communication with your device is secure, which helps prevent hackers from taking control of your device.
- Avoid updating your program while connected: Occasionally, hackers may attempt to install malware on your computer by requesting that you update your software in order to connect. Therefore, if the network requests it, confirm with the airline that it is required.
- Forget the network: Once your flight is completed, go to your network settings and choose “Forget the Network.” This prevents your device from connecting automatically and protects it from any possible danger if the network is hacked.
If you do not want to utilize a wifi network during the trip or if you do not wish for your airline to provide entertainment, you may prepare your own before flying.