Where's my WiFi? Staying connected up in the air with Qatar and other airlines

Cape Town - That moment when you're on a long-haul flight and instinctively check your phone for any life updates, but you remember the internet gods have abandoned you.

Our world has become intimately connected through the wonders of the world wide web (good and bad), but you're almost always uncomfortably disconnected from the world when you're up in the air.

SEE: Coolest flight innovation? In-flight wi-fi, well that and a shower in the sky!

Qatar understands this FOMO and announced last week that it will be the first airline in the Middle East and North African region to offer internet connectivity to its passengers from gate-to-gate without any disruptions. 

Previously, internet connections were only permitted on planes when they are higher than 3 000 metres above sea level, but Qatar's Communications Regulatory Authority has lifted these sanctions to allow Qatar to leave their passengers switched on from boarding to disembarkation. 

This becomes especially useful if you're landing at an airport you have never been to before and you can quickly check maps to figure out where to go next, or get in touch with those picking you up.

However, your phone and other electronic devices need to remain in flight mode, as this may interfere with aircraft and land-based mobile services.

Qatar planes with onboard WiFi include B777, B787, A350, A380, and select A320 and A330 aircraft that service their routes.

ALSO SEE: Qatar Airways expects to grow despite blockade

Which airlines offer the best wifi?

According to Routehappy's 2018 report on Global In-Flight WiFi, 82 airlines around the world offer in-flight WiFi on some of their flights, and three airlines keep passengers connected on all their flights - Icelandair, Southwest and Virgin Atlantic, while Highspeedinternet.com notes JetBlue as also offering internet connections on all their flights.

These 13 airlines are guaranteed to offer Internet access on 100% of their long-haul flights according to Routehappy:

  • Air Europa
  • Delta
  • Emirates
  • Etihad
  • Eeurowings
  • EVA Air
  • Iberia
  • Kuwait
  • Lufthansa
  • SAS
  • Scoot
  • United
  • Virgin Atlantic

SEE: Aviation Innovation: 6 Things making flying sexy

Highspeedinternet.com revealed their ranking of US airlines with the best WiFi, with JetBlue ranked as having the best WiFi at 12 Mbps for free, the only American airline to do so.

Lufthansa has had long-haul FlyNet access in place for some time on its long-haul flights and is the first commercial long-haul carrier worldwide to have had broadband Internet access as far back as 2003 - but things have vastly improved since then. 

Now the German carrier is in the process of extending access on its inner-European routes - with the next testing phase to include a free service to its passengers - as it goes live with its FlyLab high-speed Internet access.

In South Africa, Mango is the only domestic airline that offers prepaid WiFi services on their domestic flights, and SAA's long-haul flights also do not have the much-desired service.

ALSO SEE: Surfing above the clouds: On board Lufthansa’s new in-flight Fly Lab

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