"Hey, the plane is going to be delayed!" is ideally the message you'd want to send on a flight. Realistically, it's going to be like, hey look catzzz.
Free in-flight messaging is a train a lot of the airlines are jumping on. Though the specifics can be confusing, unless you're traveling on Hawaiian, JetBlue, Frontier and Southwest, there is going to be bound to be some form of free flight messaging or the other.
For now, only Alaska and Delta offer free messaging, though many of the gaps can be filled simply by being a T-Mobile subscriber.1
Please keep in mind that Alaska has only said that they will offer free messaging until the end of 2017. There have been no official announcements as to whether they plan to continue it in 2018, though it wouldn't surprise us if they did.
Texting (SMS) by far and large is the least supported service thanks to technical constraints. Most of the messaging ability seems to depends on the ability to connect to a satellite network.
It's important to note that T-Mobile subscribers receive free messaging, which will be denoted in an icon.
They may denote reported services that work but are not officially supported by the carrier.
So, here's who's what you can message on what on where (OMG!):
|Airline||Facebook Messenger||Google Hangouts||Google Voice||iMessage||SMS (Texting)||Viber|
- Though it seems silly to switch carriers based on that, T-Mobile has proven themselves time and time again to be one of the most travel-friendly companies around. It seems to be a cornerstone of their market differentiation in the last few years. ↩
- Gogo service (and therefore T-Mobile service) is only available on very specific routes, so it is safer to say this is the exception rather the norm. See more information here. ↩