Missing the days of no inflight wifi

When I first started flying for my job inflight wifi was nonexistent.  Before you started to board there were always a few frantic moments of 9-9-14trying to get that last email sent, and then you were cut off from the world until you landed.  Back then I was often frustrated that my productivity was being slowed down.  I dreaded getting to my destination and seeing my inbox filled to the brim.  I did as much offline work during flights as I could, but without connectivity I never got everything done.  It never failed: I would land late at night, tired as hell, and see half a dozen urgent requests in my inbox.  It was what I signed up for, and totally fine. But I looked forward to the day when inflight wifi would be available regularly so I could get stuff done.

Fast forward several years to the present.  It’s here.  Wifi is available on the majority of domestic flights, and starting to become more available on international flights.  It’s pricy, but it’s available.  At first it was exciting.  I wouldn’t have to be cut off from the world just because I was flying.  I could stay on top of my work load, and I could also stay in touch with my family as needed.  What could be wrong with that??  It’s exactly what I wanted.  Alas, sometimes you don’t realize you have a good thing until it’s gone.   Before inflight wifi, when my offline work was done I would entertain myself or get some much needed rest.  Occasionally I would remember the work that I knew was stacking up in my unreachable inbox, but eventually the freedom of being able to knit or read my Kindle cleared my mind.  The stress slowly drifted away, and I believe it did so for many other passengers on these wifi-less flights.

Now if wifi is available I feel an obligation to work even if I’ve been traveling (which is working) all day.  And I see it all around me.  People typing away, trying to cram in all the work they can into these flights.  What makes it worse is inflight wifi is usually super slow and unreliable.  You get kicked offline regularly, and something that would normally take twenty minutes to do in the office takes five times that in the air.  After hearing about all these diverted flights due to seat reclining it makes me wonder if having wifi in the air is making flights more stressful for passengers. (It also makes me also wonder if airlines anticipated this when making it more regularly available….)   It has certainly made me more stressed out when flying and I wouldn’t be surprised if, as wifi becomes more available, we see more and more disturbances (I hope I’m wrong).

So what can a business traveler do?  Well, exactly what you did when there was no wifi.  When you’re flying try to take a connectivity break whenever possible.  Set your customers’ expectations.  Let them know that wifi is choppy in the air and that you’ll prioritize their request when you have a reliable internet connection.  Give yourself a break!  Allow yourself to drift off, read a book, listen to music, anything to rest your brain.  You may have work to do when you get to your hotel, but at least you’ll be a little more refreshed.   And in my experience when a business traveler gets time to refresh is when they’re at their best.

Readers, do you miss the days when flights didn’t have wifi?

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  1. When you think about it, flying (while working) before inflight wifi was available is like a mini paid vacation! 😉

  2. Unfortunately, laptops and reclining create a volatile situation. The two are nearly incompatible unless the laptop user is willing to put the laptop on their lap. Even then it is tight. The laptop user feels pressure to perform so gets annoyed that the recliner is impacting that performance. Bam! Argument!
    In my industry we can’t have data exposed to the general public. That means that I’m pretty limited on working on an airplane. I’ll use that time to nap so I can stay up later to get work done at my destination.

  3. I have largely ignored the availability of inflight wifi because i am too cheap to pay for it! When there is an inflight free-use promotion, I may use it, but not often for work. So, I continue to live under the blissful “no-internet fly rule!”

  4. I have never used wifi on an airplane. So far, I don’t feel that I’ve missed anything. Every email I’ve gotten while traveling has been dealt with when I’ve landed.

  5. I dont use the inflight wifi. It is patchy a lot of the time. I prefer to relax when flying-it is tense enough with jerks and space restrictions. Why make it worse by trying to “work”? Also, this country is workaholic enough without this. Now we are supposed to work 24/7 because we can?

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