I don't blame American Airlines one bit.
The airline announced last week that they are suing in-flight wireless carrier GoGo and plan to switch to a different provider. According to this report, they are switching to ViaSat--as the name implies, they supply Internet service using satellite broadband.
Maybe American finally used their own service.
I've taken quite a few flights over the past few years and tried to connect up with GoGo. However, it has never really worked right. From the first time I ever connected until just last week flying home from Chicago, I experienced several major problems that make it hard to stay productive in the air.
Here are six of them, in no particular order of frustration.
(By the way, Delta? Hello? Take a cue from American here and follow suit.)
1. Slow speeds
The number one problem has to do with bandwidth. We're not living in 2005 anymore, folks. Throttling the service so you only get enough juice to check your email or instant message with your boss doesn't make sense at all. In my tests, I was usually lucky to get 1Mbps, if that. Yet, GoGo costs $28 per day, the cost of an entire month of 100Mbps access in my area. It's a total rip-off. Plus, GoGo specifically tells you you can't use Netflix and other streaming services--meaning, the one we want to use.
2. One connection at a time
How many of us travel with one gadget? I have at least three on me on trips (laptop, tablet, and phone). Yet, I can only connect with one at a time. It's a broken system because, for each device, there's a long delay as you login, negotiate the connection, and -- for some inexplicable reason -- wait an additional few minutes as GoGo figures out that you are on a new device.
3. Sketchy service
Even if you do get connected and only want to check email, it's a pain. I've never been on a flight where the GoGo service actually maintained a consistent connection. What I usually get is a bunch of errors and drop-outs. It's frustrating because, not only is it expensive and slow, but it's so unreliable that you can't focus on work. You have to focus on getting back online. In a cramped space. For a slow connection.
4. Confusing interface
GoGo has never really figured out how to make the sign-in process seamless. The problem is that you are tucked into a slim chair next with barely enough room to type. There are too many options--day-pass, global day pass, smartphone pass--who cares? Just get me on. In every single case, I've logged in and had to type an extra confirmation code, then waited...and waited...and waited for it to work. It's like underwater basket-weaving with gloves on...in flight.
5. High costs
The high costs of in-flight wireless are directly related to the fact that we are stuck in a small compartment folded in like sardines trying to get some work done. They know this. We paid a few hundred for the flight, what's another $30 or $40? You can pay $5 for an hour of service, but it's tough to justify $28 or more for the day when Wi-Fi is free almost everywhere on the ground. Also, the fees are usually per flight.
6. Chromebooks no longer give you free credits
You know that fancy Chromebook Pixel or Acer Chromebook you just purchased? It was supposed to include free credits for GoGo in-flight but the promotion just ended in late 2015. I verified this with several GoGo tech support reps. It's lame. And, someone didn't tell Google. They still list the perk with a disclaimer about the passes working for 12 months but unused passes expire on 12/31. Seems like all you need to do then is jump in the Google time machine to get them to work.
(As a side note, I didn't mention the GoGo tech support, which is not that great. If the service itself worked, I wouldn't care--but when I have asked a question or tried to find out why a pre-paid code didn't work or why my Chromebook wasn't connecting, it took at least ten minutes...on an hour flight. Also, I didn't mention that you can only connect when you are cruising altitude, which is an FAA rule.)