These airlines have the best Wi-Fi in the world

Three American airlines offer the most onboard wireless Internet connections worldwide, according to new research.

Delta Air Lines topped the list of the most connected airlines, as measured by available seat-miles with at least a chance of getting a wireless connection, according to the survey by, a site that evaluates in-flight amenities. More than 500 million of Delta’s available seat-miles are covered. It’s closely followed by United Airlines and American Airlines (more than 400 million miles).

Available seat miles is an airline term for an airline’s passenger carrying capacity. It’s equal to the number of seats available multiplied by the number of miles flown. Measuring wireless availability against this metric “is a really fair way of saying which airlines have Wi-Fi, and which ones don’t,” says Jason Rabinowitz, Routehappy’s data research manager.

Routehappy is known for its online scoring system that evaluates an airline seat based on its amenities, including seat width, legroom, power ports and Internet connections. The company’s research concluded that demand for Wi-Fi increased “dramatically” in 2015, as did the quality of the connections.

Top airlines for Wi-Fi
Airline Available seat miles
Delta 552287165
United 500957882
American 476771723
Emirates 437695532
Southwest 336559833
Etihad 154472322
Lufthansa 151007226
Singapore 98112896
JetBlue 97087276
Qatar 96315673
Japan (JAL) 83139517
Alaska 78490772
Turkish 75662116
Aeroflot 69821266
Norwegian 58154016
ANA 51187325
Iberia 42931002
Saudia 42715331
Air Canada 39254414
Virgin Atlantic 37128464

A year ago, when Routehappy conducted its last report, many airlines still didn’t have firm plans in place for fleet-wide in-flight Wi-Fi. (Its previous report used a different methodology that doesn’t allow it to precisely compare the growth of onboard wireless connections to 2014.)

Related story:   What to do when travel insurance doesn't work

Over the past year, more airlines than ever have begun or planned for major fleet-wide rollouts, it noted.

In fact, some airlines are almost entirely Wi-Fi equipped. Singapore-based Scoot, a low-cost long-haul airline owned by Singapore Airlines that operates a fleet of Boeing 787 aircraft, offers wireless coverage in 100% of its aircraft. Virgin America and Icelandair are approaching full adoption rates. Only a few Virgin America flights operating to and from Hawaii don’t have Wi-Fi yet.

Among the findings:

  • 60 airlines worldwide now offer in-flight Wi-Fi in most regions of the globe.
  • Passengers have at least “some” chance of Wi-Fi on about 36% of available seat miles worldwide.
  • U.S. airlines offering at least a chance of Wi-Fi on 78% of their seat miles systemwide and non-U.S. airlines offering at least a chance on 24% of their seat miles systemwide.

The research raises two questions: how fast are the connections and what difference does it make?

Although the study didn’t measure connection speeds, it noted that the core technology behind in-flight Wi-Fi has also developed to allow for faster and more reliable connections.

Broadband quality elusive

Passengers now demand a home broadband-like experience, but so far only a few airlines meet that standard. JetBlue is nearing completion of a fleet-wide, true broadband rollout, which would allow passengers to access to Netflix and other streaming services with no access charges. Virgin America has about five aircraft upgraded to at-home broadband standards.

Among the major airlines, United’s Boeing 737s have real high-speed wireless access. The only thing worse than slow wireless access? Having none, says Rabinowitz.

Related story:   That’s ridiculous! Hotels are charging even more for what should be free

“When customers get on a flight that doesn’t have Wi-Fi, they get angry,” he says. “I’ve seen it.”

Airlines know that passengers expect a wireless connection, and they are eager to offer it. There are two main benefits to an airline, according to the study’s authors. It’s a source of revenue, with passengers paying anywhere from $8 to upward of $40 to connect, depending on the airline and the length of the flight. But it also distracts passengers from the other discomforts of flying.

“Wi-Fi takes your mind off those the smaller seats,” says Rabinowitz.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at Read more of Christopher's articles here.

  • jim6555

    This list is misleading since the numbers are presented in seat miles flown, not
    percentage of seats that can receive Wi-Fi. Virgin America, JetBlue and Southwest fly fewer seat miles than the three remaining US legacy carriers (DL, AA, UA). The smaller airlines may make Wi-Fi available to a larger percentage of their passengers than the legacy carriers, but would rank lower on this list.

  • judyserienagy

    How many times can you type “These airline …” without noticing the grammar error? These is plural, airline is singular.

Get smart. Sign up for the newsletter.