Monthly Airplane Wi-Fi Reliability Report Card: September 2019

a hand holding a phone with a wifi symbol on the screen

This is my ninth month recording my airplane Wi-Fi stats during my business and leisure travel.  As I’ve mentioned in the past, reliable airplane Wi-Fi is the most important element for me on a business flight.

Here’s how the year has shaped up so far:

September 2019 Wi-Fi Scorecard

United Airlines: 2 working flights out of 4 (50%)

This very easily could have been categorized 1 out of 4.  I had one flight where the Wi-Fi technically worked, but the speed was utterly horrendous.  In the end, I was able to send and receive e-mails without big attachments.  Not really sure United deserves the benefit of the doubt, but that’s the scoop.  Based on my own experience and conversations with some folks at United, the 737 seems to be the plane in the fleet with the most current problems.

YTD Stats:

United Airlines: 33 working flights out of 57 (58%)

Southwest Airlines: 1 working flight out of 2 (50%)

Air Canada: 2 working flight out of 2 (100%)

Delta Air Lines: 5 working flight out of 5 (100%)

American Airlines: 5 working flights out of 6 (83%)

Alaska Airlines: o working flights out of 1 (0%)

Private Plane: 2 working flights out of 2 (100%)

Qantas: 1 working flight out of 1 (100%)

Total: 49 working flights out of 76 (64%)

The Final Two Pennies

September was a step back from a more successful summer.  This correlates with what I’m hearing from other travelers.  And, the United 737 fleet seems to still have the worst of the issues.  Based on the data so far this year, I’ve started to search for United itineraries that aren’t serviced by 737s.  If I have to take a connecting flight, I’m also choosing to move that business from United to another carrier.

I’m still not at the point where I want to move a significant chunk of my business to a low-cost carrier like Frontier (that doesn’t have Wi-Fi).  I’ve flown Frontier and really don’t mind the in-flight experience, though I do recommend the extra legroom seats for the full-sized tray table to work on.  They don’t have any plans to add Wi-Fi to their planes, the single biggest reason I don’t fly them more often.

57 flights is still small in the scheme of all the flights United operates in the US.  But, I believe it’s statistically significant enough to state that United really isn’t as reliable as their peers.  When I was at United Media Day a couple of weeks ago, executives were quick to point to statistics that seem to indicate things have gotten better.  They touted a big reduction in requests for reimbursement.  But, I suspect I’m not the only one who has just gotten tired of begging United for compensation.  My most recent attempt to get compensation resulted in an offer of miles that were worth less than what an internet session costs.  And, those numbers didn’t take into account September and October (side note: I haven’t published my October numbers yet but they’re not better).

United has had more than ample time to fix the problems.  Their competitors have working Wi-Fi on 737s.  For some reason, United still seems to lack the motivation to perform at the same level as their peers.

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