WLAN connection on the mobile phone in the airplane

WLAN on the plane: surfing above the clouds

At work, at home, or on the road: For most people, having internet reception at all times is a matter of course. The smartphone is always with you, you can be reached non-stop - right? Anyone who boards an airplane more often knows that this can look quite different above the clouds. The cell phone goes into the prescribed flight mode, but what about WLAN on the plane? Not allowed? Not available? Or perhaps far too expensive? One thing is certain: WLAN on the plane would be incredibly practical and pleasant. Relax and book a rental car for your vacation or prepare for sightseeing. But is that even possible? We tell you everything you need to know about WLAN on the plane.


Is it allowed to use wifi on the plane?

The answer is quite clear: Yes, you are allowed to use WLAN on the plane. In fact, since 2013, you no longer have to turn off any of your mobile devices completely as long as they are in flight mode. This was decided by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The simple reason for this is that aircraft technology should not be impaired by cell phone beams generating interference noise in the on-board radio, thus making communication from the cockpit to the ground more difficult. In addition, you can miss important and safety-relevant on-board announcements while talking on the phone. However, this has nothing to do with WLAN use. Therefore, you can obtain WLAN in the aircraft without hesitation.

Mother and son together on the mobile phone on the plane

How does WiFi work on an airplane?

The internet has come a long way before it reaches the airplane. WLAN on airplanes works via a highly complex transmission technology. That's why the surfing speed can be impaired. But clouds can also interfere with internet reception. The internet is sent from ground stations on earth to satellites. The aircraft connects to the nearest satellite using an antenna located in the fuselage. The signal is then forwarded to a server, which is similar in function to a router (access point) and through which passengers can log on with their electronic devices. However, some airlines do not allow a connection to the satellite, and thus WLAN in the aircraft, until the cruising altitude has been reached.

How much does it cost to use WLAN on the airplane?

Internet on the plane is usually a costly affair. Very few airlines offer a free WiFi service. Either data volume is billed or the WLAN on the plane is offered on a time-limited basis via a surf flat rate. Prices and billing models vary from airline to airline and depend on several factors. Business class travelers, for example, are often allowed to use the WiFi on the plane free of charge. Low-cost airlines, on the other hand, usually do not offer WiFi above the clouds at all. In some airlines, you can surf for free for the first 15 minutes or 20 MB and then have the choice of booking one of the WLAN packages. In other airlines, guests pay for a high-speed WLAN upgrade to surf faster. On average, the cost is around 15 euros per flight. Since loading videos and images in particular uses up a lot of data volume and is therefore quickly consumed, you should consider in advance what you want to use it for.

young woman on mobile phone on plane

How good is the internet speed on the plane?

WLAN on an airplane is of course not as reliable as on the ground. The quality sometimes suffers due to the technical effort. However, airlines often offer extra high-speed packages. However, even then you cannot expect the same internet speed as on the ground. If you want to use the WiFi on the plane, you should therefore always be patient.

How to pass the time without WiFi on the plane?

WiFi on the plane is too expensive for you and you're happy to have some smartphone-free time? If you don't have anything urgent to do and don't know how you can keep yourself busy on board without the internet, we've put together a few ideas for you. Sometimes it just feels good to put your phone aside and take some time out. But even without WiFi on the plane, you can put your smartphone to good use above the clouds.

Pastime without smartphone

  1. Conversations: If you are traveling alone and the person sitting next to you signals openness, a nice conversation with fellow passengers can be very enriching. If you are traveling with several people anyway, you can make wonderful use of the flight for an extended conversation. This shortens the time immensely.

  2. Reading: You otherwise never have time or leisure to read? Then the lack of wifi on the plane can also be a blessing. Grab a good book and immerse yourself in another world. Or get to grips with your destination on the way, with the help of a travel guide.

  3. Rest: Close your eyes and take a little nap. This way you will feel much fitter when you arrive and you won't have to recover from the flight afterwards. At your destination, you can start sightseeing right away.

  4. Play: Are you traveling in company? A card game fits in any carry-on luggage and can be played even on the smallest airplane tables. There are also numerous games with a simple set of cards that guarantee variety, so it's never boring.

Tip: You can find out what else you are allowed to take on the plane in our article Facts about hand luggage.

Pastime with smartphone

  1. Clean up your smartphone: What is actually on your smartphone? As a rule, most people carry around a lot of apps, photos and old messages that fill up the memory and are actually no longer needed. Use the free time to tidy up the smartphone a bit and directly make room for new vacation photos.

  2. Download content: Streaming content only works online? Yep. Because many streaming services offer the option to download content within the respective app and consume it offline. So, you can browse and download your favorite content even before you fly. This way, you don't have to rely on the WLAN on the plane at all. Benefit: You can easily continue watching the content even after the flight, for example, during the transfer to the hotel.

  3. Play offline: There are gaming apps that do not require internet connection. So if you want to shorten your time with gaming, you can simply find out in advance which apps this applies to and download them.

  4. Relax: While it is relatively noisy on an airplane, you can also find relaxation with the right tools. Either you choose the classic earplugs or you use the auditory possibilities of your smartphone. Here, many things can bring relaxation: Your favorite music, a great audio book or meditative content. It's all up to your personal taste.

Are you sure internet on the plane is a must for you? Then find out from your airline before your departure whether WLAN is available on the plane and take a look at the different rates in advance. But one thing is clear: WLAN on the plane is definitely not a cheap affair. So, especially for short flights, consider whether you can download content in advance or perhaps just want to enjoy the short time offline. We wish you a good flight!