I’ve often said (and occasionally tweeted) that Gogo internet, the only inflight wifi option on most major American carriers, is either the best thing ever or the worst thing ever, depending on how I’m feeling about the mercurial service is behaving at that very moment. I signed up for Gogo a long time ago, almost at the very beginning of the company’s existence, so I pay a little less per month than some latecomers, but it’s a fee I very begrudgingly pay every single month. It’s a necessary evil—during the five hours of time time that I’m taking a flight from Atlanta to Seattle, my entire industry might change (and often does). I literally cannot afford to be disconnected from email or text that long.
More often than not, however, over the years that I’ve forked over my loot, the service has left me feeling more frustrated than satisfied. Slow connection speeds, spotty service, entire flights with no service whatsoever, flight attendants who have no idea how to reset a router…it’s enough to drive a man to drink. (Luckily, I’m normally in First so the drinks are free.) But since Gogo is the only option for inflight wifi, they can charge whatever the hell they want, and I’ll still pay it. There are times, however, when the service is so poor, that I’m very glad that I’ve packed my last issue of Road & Track to help me pass the time. Plus, I can’t connect until the plane goes over 10,000 feet, and I lose service when the plane goes under 10K, so there’s at least 20-30 minutes of flying time where I have no service, so it’s nice to catch up on my reading during those times, as well.
And I’m not the only one. In fact, the number one sales revenue channel for magazines in 2017 is not subscriptions, but airports. Magazines give away subscriptions. But at the airport, a glossy mag still runs anywhere from six to ten bucks, and people line up to buy them at the newsstands.
However, that may change soon.
Gogo has partnered with Delta to provide free messaging inflight on iMessage, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp. T-Mobile customers get free messaging on all Gogo flights. Rates for a single flight’s worth of Gogo start at around $4.95. Who cares, though, right, because the service still sucks.
Well, not so much. I recently experienced Gogo’s new, high-speed, gate-to-gate service on a Delta flight. I can connect to Gogo as soon as I sit down—no more waiting 30-40 minutes between boarding and getting over 10,000 feet for the service to work. It’s also significantly faster, and I experienced no interruptions in service. I’ve never been able to upload photos to WordPress or send picture messages on Gogo. On the new service, I was able to do both easily.
Delta has committed to rolling out this service to its entire fleet as soon as possible, even the CRJ-700 and CRJ-900 commuter jets. Once this happens, and passengers can pay a mere $4.95 to connect their tablets or extra-huge iPhone XX PLUS PLUS to fast, reliable data, who’s going to keep buying magazines? And if the glossy mags aren’t selling, who’s going to pay the bloated editorial staffs? Will magazines go back to actually charging the prices on the cover for subscriptions?
Or will this be the final nail in the coffin?