Why Does My Flight Not Want Me to Buy Wi-Fi?

Both airlines I flew with were disincentivizing Wi-Fi purchases.

I took two five-hour-long flights in the past five days, and both times the airline involved seemed to be disincentivizing people to pay for Wi-Fi.

My first flight (SEA-JFK) was on JetBlue, which offered passengers free Wi-Fi courtesy of Amazon, but stated that the Wi-Fi was only good enough to do light surfing, a little email, and—if you really wanted—stream Amazon videos. If you needed better Wi-Fi, you’d have to pay for it.

Naturally, I checked my email, drafted some freelance work, and then spent the rest of the flight watching stuff on Amazon. (I already had an Amazon Prime account, but if I hadn’t, the site would have been more than happy to set me up.)

The return flight (DCA-SEA) was on Alaska, which not only charged $36.95 for Wi-Fi—which really only breaks down to $7.39 an hour, but still—but also warned me, both at the top and at the bottom of the menu, that my connection wouldn’t be that great.

Or, if I wanted, I could check out Alaska Beyond’s entertainment portal, where I could either purchase a few premium titles (the ubiquitous Frozen, Star Wars IV through VII) or stream a bunch of stuff for free.

I watched the free Cartoon Network shows first, because that’s the kind of person I am, and then I switched to the free HGTV channel and watched Tiny Luxury, a show about people who hire a group of Portlanders to build them luxurious tiny homes.

I had so many questions about the tiny homes. For the couple that wanted custom storage for their yoga gear: is there enough room to do yoga inside the tiny house, or are you yoga-ing in your sister’s backyard, where your tiny home is parked? For the couple who hid their cat’s litterbox inside an antique chest that was lofted in the far corner of the home: does the cat really climb a ladder to the bedroom loft and cross a long, narrow catwalk just to use the litterbox? There’s no ladder up to the litterbox area, so how do you get up there to clean it? Do you have to lift the entire thing down to the ground level first? Does litter get everywhere? Does your cat just pee everywhere? (I had a cat, and she peed everywhere, so I know this kind of thing happens.)

I also have so many questions about both Alaska and JetBlue’s Wi-Fi plans. Why do you not want us to pay for the Wi-Fi? Is funneling us towards Amazon video (which can include ads) and Alaska Beyond video (which included both ads and commercials) better for your bottom line? Do you get kickbacks from Amazon or HGTV?

For those Billfolders who are more in the know: how hard is it to provide Wi-Fi for a planeload of people? Is it easier to just stream a bunch of video through Amazon or Alaska Beyond instead?