Some people call this trick devious, but I just think all’s fair in love and Wi-Fi.
As I noted before, the price of in-flight Wi-Fi depends on whether you try to access it through a laptop or through a mobile device. With a tiny mod, it’s possible to get the cheaper mobile price and still surf the Internet on your laptop.
To be clear, laptop access is usually more expensive because data consumption is usually higher on these devices. Essentially, what this small hack does is trick the network into thinking that your laptop is your smartphone. If you’re familiar with user agents at all, it’s how an Internet browser—whether it’s your phone or laptop—identifies the device it is on. But with a few browser add-ons, it’s possible to take control of the situation and choose how your browser registers itself.
There are plenty of options available. Google Chrome users should look into User-Agent Switcher while Firefox users should check out User Agent Switcher. For those who use Opera like me—I know, I’m weird—User-Agent Switcher does the job. Internet Explorer seemed to require a bit more of a manual fix but that was expected. And besides, why are you using Internet Explorer in the first place?
Selecting a device through each extension is fairly self-explanatory by checking out the drop-down list. There are quite a few platforms and devices to choose from; selecting any well-known smartphone should do the job. I tested all of them in my desktop browsers and set the user agent to identify itself as an iPhone each time. They all seemed to pull up the mobile edition of the site, so it seemed to work. I haven’t tried to use this in-flight just yet, but there’s no reason why it shouldn’t technically work.
UPDATE: A reader pointed out this doesn't work on United planes. I wasn't able to double-check this en route due to a faulty Wi-Fi connection on the aircraft.
If you can’t be bothered, buying a prepaid pass goes a long way toward getting Wi-Fi access for a whole lot cheaper. Even the all-day pass can be stored up to for a year, making it a great deal if you’re making mucho connections or have several long flights within a short time frame. (There are sometimes coupons available for these passes; I’d definitely check Retailmenot or Google some codes before you hop on the plane. Cause you’re not gonna get Wi-Fi on the plane without paying for it!)
How-To Geek has a great tutorial on switching your browser’s user agent sans extension as well but I personally can’t be bothered to go through all those steps. But go forth and Wi-Fi anyways, my friend.