Surfing Above the Clouds: The Secret Budget Killer

A cautionary tale of the unnecessary, add-on travel expense of in-flight Wi-Fi.

By The Next Stop team


There is hardly anywhere on earth anymore where you can go to escape the pinging and tweeting of the Internet. Until the mid-2000s, travelling on an airplane was one of those times to unplug. A 2014 study revealed that worldwide, 94 per cent of travellers bring at least one mobile device when they take personal vacations. A mobile device was defined as being a smartphone, tablet, e-reader, laptop or smartwatch.

Currently, almost 50 airlines offer in-flight Wi-Fi or GSM Internet access including Air Canada, British Airways and American Airlines. Singapore Airlines charges one of the highest rates, which is $11.95 USD for an hour or $9.99 USD for 10MB.

For Jeremy Gutsche, the CEO of the site Trend Hunter, his Internet use racked up a bill of just over $1,000 USD during his flight from London to Singapore on Nov. 12. Gutsche paid the initial $29 USD for 30MB of data, but received a bill from Singapore Airlines of $1,171.46 USD. Including the additional overage data charges, his final bill was $1,142.47 USD. Gutsche tweeted about his bill and wrote a blog post about his expenditure on his website.

wifi bill

In the blog post, he wrote that he visited 155 web pages and downloaded a PowerPoint presentation. “That doc probably cost me $100 to upload, so I hope my team liked it. I actually even emailed them a warning that my upload was taking a while,” wrote Gutsche. “That email probably cost me $10. And yes, the pricing per mb was disclosed on sign-up, but I bought the $30 package, slept through most the flight, and really didn’t think I’d end up a thousand bucks past the limit.”

Gutsche argued the ethical implications of the terms and conditions of in-flight Internet, adding that the overage model could be excessive for someone like his mother or backpacker. He ended up having to foot the bill that wasn’t too much of a stretch for a CEO and Internet mogul.

For the average traveller, prices for in-flight Internet access can be high. Even more problematic is the fact that connections can be unreliable and slow, with only 28 per cent of business travellers satisfied with the in-flight Wi-Fi offered by airlines. The moral of the story: exercise caution when purchasing in-flight Internet time. Read over the terms and conditions of the provider and ask yourself how imperative it is to be connected during your two-hour flight.

It may just end up saving you from a nasty bill.

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