Regional jets don’t always offer the most comfortable onboard experience, but American Airlines has some good news.
The Fort Worth-based carrier announced on Thursday that it’ll outfit its regional fleet with high-speed Wi-Fi. Specifically, American will install Intelsat’s satellite connectivity across nearly 500 of its smallest two-class jets.
This new technology will allow flyers to connect to streaming speeds on its smallest planes. American promises low latency for the internet connection, which should mean minimal buffering, if any, when trying to watch a show or stream music while in flight.
American didn’t share a rollout timeline for this new high-speed service (beyond starting the installations in 2024). American Eagle regional affiliates currently operate the following two-class jets: CRJ-700, CRJ-900, Embraer E170 and Embraer E175 — all of which will receive the Wi-Fi upgrades.
The CRJ-200 and Embraer E145, which don’t currently offer Wi-Fi, unfortunately won’t receive internet service as part of this announcement.
American’s existing regional jet Wi-Fi provider, Gogo, is painfully slow and often unreliable. It uses an outdated air-to-ground network that was one of the first mainstream solutions for inflight connectivity.
The upgrades will no doubt be big news for travelers who find themselves on American Eagle planes.
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American’s move to team up with Intelsat for regional connectivity comes just weeks after Delta Air Lines announced a similar solution for its fleet of Delta Connection jets. The Atlanta-based carrier is teaming up with Hughes Network Systems to bring faster and more reliable Wi-Fi to 400 Boeing 717s and regional jets operating in North America.
All of this enhanced connectivity comes as the largest U.S. airlines are racing to offer an onboard experience that mimics the living room. Delta and United are both committed to offering seatback TVs on every single jet, as well as high-speed Wi-Fi on every plane.
On the other hand, American ditched entertainment systems across nearly its entire domestic fleet, but it does offer streaming-capable Wi-Fi on every mainline jet.
While there’s been industry pressure to make Wi-Fi access cheaper (or even free, like om JetBlue and Delta), American continues to charge more than any of its key competitors for internet access.
Case in point: A few weeks ago, a full-flight pass on my trip from Los Angeles to New York came out to $29. Had I instead been flying with JetBlue (or on select Delta planes), Wi-Fi would’ve been free. If I chose United instead, I’d only be on the hook for a much more modest $8.
Hopefully, as American’s Wi-Fi gets faster, it’ll ultimately invest in free fleetwide Wi-Fi.