I am a pretty big fan of having WiFi at 40,000 feet for many reasons, not the least of which is the ability to get some work done while I am stuck in a seat for any number of hours. On a recent flight from New York though I accidentally stumbled across an interesting way to get free WiFi on Gogo equipped flights.
Now let me start out by saying I do not encourage the use of tricks like this, but I found it to be interesting and thought I would pass it along nonetheless.
As many of you are aware, Gogo offers in-flight internet services on several major airlines.
The system only works above 10,000 feet and 24-hour passes can be purchased for as little as $16 if you purchase your pass online through Gogo before you board the aircraft. Gogo also offers monthly subscriptions that start at $49.95/month if you fly a lot on any of the above airlines. While the system generally works pretty good, it can be downright slow during peak business traveler times (which happens to be when I find myself flying the most lately) so I have held off on purchasing a monthly subscription.
Most travelers today carry some form of device with them on planes that can live stream movies, television shows and music. As a result of this, the airlines have slowly been moving away from putting in-flight entertainment (IFE) screens in each seat for domestically configured aircraft. The thought is that with most travelers carrying a device they can stream with, the airline saves money by allowing passengers to access entertainment via the cloud rather than via the costly installation and/or retrofit of traditional IFE screens.
Gogo happens to be one of those internet providers that allows you to stream movies, television shows and music straight from your device for free while in the air. All you have to do is simply download the Gogo app on your device and you can stream whatever is available once the plane is above 10,000 feet. And that is where this interesting little trick comes in.
First, it is important to remember that this only works if you do not already have the Gogo app. If you do already have the Gogo app on your device, simply delete it if you want to try this out. When the Gogo internet becomes live above 10,000 feet, simply open your device’s browser and direct it to www.gogo.com. That will take you to the Gogo landing page for that particular carrier (in my case, it was Delta).
From there you will want to click on “Watch for free” which will take you to a page that asks you if you have the Gogo app already.
Since I did not have the Gogo app installed, I clicked on the “Download now” button. That led my App Store app to open up where it then automatically loaded me to the Gogo app page.
What was interesting was that as soon as my App Store app opened on my iPhone, e-mails, iMessages (which will come through on WiFi) and WhatsApp messages started coming through. From there I tried logging in to my Reddit account and sure enough, I had full internet access while the Gogo app was downloading!
Now, I am sure you are saying, “yes, but apps only take a few minutes at most to download and install so this isn’t very useful.” And you would be right if you were downloading an app on a stable ground internet connection. But in the air, the Gogo system is notoriously slow for downloads. In fact, on my ~3 hour flight from New York, the Gogo app never fully downloaded which meant I had internet access for the entire flight.
Since the Gogo app never finished installing on my phone, I cannot speak to whether the internet shuts off when the download is finished or not, but conceivably you could simply delete the Gogo app and start the download process again to gain additional access time. I also did not do any substantial internet browsing during my time online, so I am also unable to speak to whether or not there are data limits in place when using the go-round. I can say that sending and receiving ~25 e-mails, chatting with friends on a group iMessage and sending numerous messages back and forth on WhatsApp was not enough to trigger the connection to shut down, though this is very much a YMMV situation.
Although I stumbled upon this completely by accident, I am not sure that I would depend on it on a flight where I really needed internet access to get some work done. It is a nice “travel hack” (and I use that phrase loosely for this) if you are just looking to WhatsApp with some friends or check the score of the game, but outside of that I think it has limited reliable use. I tend to think as well that as the technology advances that this “loophole” (again, I use that term loosely) with Gogo will be closed up, but in the meantime, it is still an option to check out!
Have any of you used this method with success?