How To Share Inflight Wifi Between Multiple Devices

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I largely rely on inflight internet to stay connected while traveling. When flying 400,000+ miles per year, the ability to be online while in the sky can greatly improve my productivity.

Wifi

Inflight internet quality can vary greatly by airline, and the difference in offerings can impact which airline I fly. For example, I’ll take an airline which charges a flat rate with no data caps on wifi over an airline which charges based on usage, as the latter can get outrageously expensive. American charges just $19 for wifi on their 777-300ERs without data caps, which is a fantastic value, especially for a flight like Dallas to Hong Kong.

American-wifi

But no matter how good inflight wifi gets, you’re almost always limited to using one device at a time per “plan.” That’s true whether you’re using Gogo, T-Mobile, etc. You can usually switch between devices, but that requires signing out and then signing in again, which can be time consuming.

But apparently there’s a way to use multiple devices at a time and “share” wifi, whether on a plane or in a hotel. I’m not very tech savvy, so this is all very new to me.

View from the Wing points to a tip passed on by reader Ray W, regarding a device which will allow just that:

I know there has been a lot of interest in travel routers lately. This is a really good deal on the HooToo nano.

Before anyone asks, yes you can use this to share gogo or hotel wifi to more than one device. The big catch on this one is that it does not have its own built in battery – you will need to plug it into a power bank (USB battery), or power it from your laptop, or into the airline outlet. On the other hand, it is super duper light (1 ounce!)

So the HooToo Wireless Travel Router will allow you to bridge an existing wireless network and create your own secure wifi network. I can’t confirm firsthand this will work (I just ordered mine, so will know soon), but Ray suggests it will. As noted above, this router doesn’t have a built-in battery, so you need to have it plugged in to use it. The plus side is that it’s tiny and only weighs 1.6 ounces. It costs just $18.99, and if you have Amazon Prime and use promotion code BRQQQI64, you should be able to get a further $4 discount.

Inflight-Wifi-1

Otherwise View from the Wing points to another HooToo Wireless Travel Router, which is marked down to $39.99. This comes with an external battery pack, though also weighs 8.8 ounces. While it’s much more convenient to have one with a built-in battery, I guess it comes down to whether you want to carry the extra weight with you or not.

Inflight-Wifi-2

Bottom line

Personally I just ordered the smaller version of the HooToo Wireless Travel Router, and can’t wait to try it out on my upcoming flights. Being able to use my laptop and phone at the same time while paying for just one device is awesome. This could also be useful if you’re staying at a hotel, but you want to connect more devices than they typically allow.

Has anyone tried this before?

Comments

  1. The router is an unnecessary add-on as you can do this from any PC without the use of any hardware. Using apps like My Wifi Router, you can share a hotspot from the connection your PC has.

  2. I’m pretty sure you are not allowed to have anything that emits wireless radio signals onboard. I could see this getting confiscated.

    If you want to run multiple devices on the same account, you just need to clone the MAC address of one device and match it on the others, then they all appear as the same device to the router on the plane.

    I’d suggest taking the MAC address of your mobile and cloning it on your laptop, as it can be hard or impossible to change it on the mobile.

    http://www.online-tech-tips.com/computer-tips/how-to-change-mac-address/

  3. Something tells me that these devices that enable personal wifi hotspots to be created during flights have not been certified by the likes of FAA. And probably for a good reason too: I doubt that the FAA and equivalent aviation agencies would want dozens of personal wifi networks to be enveloping a plane. Therefore, convenient as they may be to use, they probably fall foul of regulations on what devices can be used during a flight.

  4. I have determined that you no longer need to log out to change devices. Just log in on the new device and it will disconnect the old on GoGo. This makes it easier to switch – but you still need to log in each time.

    Another option here – I have been told by FA’s, that your account can be used simultaneously on multiple flights (but only one log in per flight) Thus FA’s share an account – say 5 people share a $50 account paying $10 each per month. (I haven’t tried this however).

    But if true then if you had a wifi buddy and shared two accounts, then you could sign in both on your account and your buddies on the same flight. And if the buddy is flying at the same time but on a different flight – the buddy can too.

  5. Network engineer checking in:) Wifi routers use the same, exact standard as Wifi on your phone (802.11b/g/n/ac) so safety and technology wise there’s no issue. A Wifi client needs to “emit” as much signal as a small router would to be able to communicate with the inflight Wifi access-point.

    However, if dozens of new Wifi networks are created in a small space using the same channels it would negatively affect everyone’s connectivity so it would be in the best interest of airlines to restrict creation of new Wifi networks using routers or notebooks.

    The technically best way to safely share Wifi without affecting others would be through Bluetooth tethering. Bluetooth radio is much weaker than Wifi and affects much less range and interference. Many new phones and tablets have this feature; try looking into the Tethering/hot spot settings. With Bluetooth tethering enabled, you can share your connection to any other Bluetooth capable device that’s paired. In addition to causing much less interference, Bluetooth uses very little power so you can use your devices much longer than using Wifi. The connection will be only visible to paired devices so others can’t tell that you’re sharing.

    That said, being able to use multiple devices is probably still not in the best financial interest of the airlines. They would want to charge you for every device for max revenue so most services will try to restrict you to one device at a time even if Wifi routers and Bluetooth sharing can be safe and innocuous. Both would still be a breach of agreement if your service says one device only at a time.

  6. @blueline7: You can’t create a hotspot using your phone in this case. You can do that easily if your broadband is cell data, but not if it is wifi data. You can’t have broadband using wifi and also a local network using the same wifi.

    I would assume the same is true of a pocket router, but I don’t know.

  7. One more thing to add to Penguin’s comments — If you are concerned about what others think or people reporting your “rogue” wifi, you can always mask an SSID so it is not broadcast. This is not super private in the sense someone who knows what will not know there is a private network, but it will stop random less tech savvy folks from trying to join your network in hopes they can snag some free wifi.

  8. Just use Connectify. Same exact thing just using software. Your laptop just serves as the wifi hotspot to allow as many devices as you want (including the laptop) to simultaneously across the internet. Used it with gogo, southwest, B6, LH, and many other carriers. Works like a charm and super simple.

    Way easier and no device to pack/worry about.

  9. @jon

    of course you are “allowed to have anything that emits wireless radio signals onboard”

    ANY device that uses wifi is by definition emitting radio signals. these travel routers are not any different than any other wifi device.

  10. Bluetooth tethering is much better than wifi-wifi bridging.
    Before you are onboard you just set up BT connection. After takeoff you connect a device to inflight wifi, period. You can go with all your devices.

  11. @Jon,

    Most flight attendants wouldn’t have a clue what a wifi router looks like – I’m certain you won’t have one walking around with wireshark, looking for rouge access points… Not to mention this specific one is tiny and could easily be slipped into a jacket pocket, laptop bag or even seat back pocket if someone was worried about that…

  12. Connectify would do the job nicely with no extra hardware required! Agree with points from others re multiple WiFi hotshots causing issues for poor connections if everyone starts doing it though!

  13. I’ve used this technique specifically with the HooToo for over a year now. It always works in my experience. Has worked in every hotel and on every plane (Gogo and T-Mobile). I have the version with a battery so I can just turn it on discreetly in my bag shortly after take-off. I find it useful since I frequently travel with my wife and two kids. This way we can all have internet access. Like mentioned above, I hide the SSID just in case. It also works great in hotels, allowing me to use my AppleTV for entertainment (mainly for the kids). The newest version I use also has a USB input and I plug in my 128GB usb stick loaded with movies. This way my kids stay entertained on longer flights (especially on some older planes without good IFE).

  14. I’d like to get a sense from frequent travellers how they feel about the actual value here. $19 for a flight (Dallas to HK, one that I make once or twice a year) doesn’t seem like a good value to me and it has always put me off using the service. That’s nearly half the price of a standard data plan for a month for a stand alone card (e.g. AT&T offers 5g data + tethering for $50/month). It seems particularly hard to justify if you are going to land in an airport like HKG with free WiFi or you plan to hit an airport lounge for any period of time after a flight.

    I base part of this assessment on the idea that (I’ve been told) the stability and speed is not very good at all, and anything beyond email is gonna be akin to working web 2.0 while under web 1.0 speeds. Again, just hearsay from folks who’ve used it so please do let me know if speeds are actually decent.

    I do understand that in Ben’s case, he’s probably on a plane more often than not, so his circumstances are unique and he may need the access. I guess if you must have email within that 16 hour window while in the air, then you can justify the price ($1 per hour or so), but I have a hard time seeing it. I do wonder though if, in the years to come, inflight WiFi (like entertainment) might become something of a free perk.

    On my recent flight (Dallas to HK) I recall one of the inflight attendants basically saying to a passenger, “I’m sorry, the WiFi goes in and out, we know nothing about it and have no way to control it.” I am not sure if she was just saying this to placate the passenger or not.

    I am curious to know though, does a purchase of inflight WiFi count for AA bonus points spending if you use an AA credit card?

  15. Currently on an AA flight using WiFi. I am getting a wifi signal for Ellipsis Jetpack AE6E which is a Verizon Hotspot. I guess the person who has it never turned it off.

  16. @Foxlore – on the DFW-HKG flight the wifi does come and go. Sometimes just for a short while, other times for a long time. Also it is off when flying over Russia and diverting around North Korea. It can be annoying at times and sometimes I question rather it is worth it, particularly since you want to sleep.

    On the return HKG-DFW it works better because the flight path is over the China Sea and just east of Japan before heading over the Pacific.

  17. It works. I have had a Hootoo Tripmate for a little less than a year and share Gogo’s Internet on all my flights. Two weeks ago coming back from SFO to MIA on American I shared one internet connection between 6 family members. I would highly suggest getting the tripmate with the 6,000 mAh battery instead of any other model. The simpler ones don’t have a battery and if your seat’s power outlet is not working you will be out of luck and the one with a 10,400 mAh battery is just too big. The battery lasts 2 days easily when being used as a router.

    2 things to keep in mind:

    1) Keep your SSID hidden (your wi-fi name). So it’s not “discoverable” by other people. This way most people connecting to Gogo can’t see it on their screens when searching for wi-fi and…
    2) Don’t keep the router out in the open. I used to keep it on my tray table and a curious flight attendant almost got me in trouble. Now I keep it next to me on my seat.

  18. @Randy – Thanks for the breakdown between the two routes. It is interesting to know that it works better on the HKG-DFW run. I may just give it a go, next time I head state side. 😀

  19. Perhaps I’m missing something as I’m not sure why hardware is required. I use a Blackberry Passport there’s a number of options, some listed above: Bluetooth, NFC, Mobile hotspot and Internet tethering with USB all seem to work for my other devices or I can just grab someone’s open wifi !

  20. Hello Ben,

    I can tell you this works perfectly in hotels, I have done it many times. I have used the Asus adapters. There is no reason the two you are showing should not work, I bought the larger one and loaned it to a friend before I had a chance to try it, never got it back. I have never tried doing this on a plane, the concept is the same so it should work. As others have posted, is it ok to generate your own wifi signal, the plane is already generating one so whats the difference ?

    I see from the photo you are using a Macintosh, for those using Windows machines, the option of sharing your internet connection is supposed to be built in, I was never abel to have it consistently work. I then began using software called Connectify, http://www.connectify.me, since I switched back to a Macintosh myself several years ago I no longer use this software.

  21. No need for such a device, it’ll just clutter up your bag.
    Two options:
    1. Share a hotspot from your laptop as another commenter already suggested. Different laptops have different ways of doing this, my Thinkpad has this as a native built-in functionality.
    2. Use different e-mail addresses to sign up multiple devices. On Emirates you can even use the same credit card to pay as long as you use different e-mails, even on the same device, and thus get the $1/500MB repeatedly as opposed to the pay-per-KB extortion beyond 500MB

  22. What is the airlines position on the use of a router. It’s taken a ,one time simple to get wifi, now the passenger is adding a router!

  23. @blueline is correct you can create a hotspot using your iphone and most likely android too but I have an iphone. having said that a travel router is a good idea but you do not need it for the plane

  24. Is something like this useful in a hotel where wifi service is poor, i.e. connect this to an ethernet plug then just create a hotspot within your room. I doubt I would use this on a plane, but if it helps solve the problem of lousy wifi speeds in a lot of overseas hotels then I’m all in.

  25. @Foxlore this is all based on satellite communications. The wifi network in the airplane is routed through sat comms which is notoriously slow, narrow bandwidth, and sometimes just not there. Speed is less about the wifi network in the plane, more about communications between the aircraft transmitter/receivers and whatever satellites they access, or allowed to access.

    Your computer is trying to send data through the aircraft network, out to a satellite which is routed back to a ground station from who knows where, then routed through an internet connection from who knows where or what kind of equipment or connection it has, to the website or smtp mail server you’re trying to access. Then in reverse all the way back to you at 36,000 ft traveling at 500mph. One hiccup in the transmission either direction, and you have to resend, or at the very least wait, until it corrects itself and re-establishes the connection before the prescribed timeout. TCP-IP is a constant two way communication that is tunneled through whatever communication protocol the satellites use. Since sat comms are so slow, the sat protocol has to spoof tcp into believing it’s actually sending and receiving the data in a timely manner, or the tcp connection will timeout rather quickly. It’s amazing any of this stuff works at all.

  26. Connectify does not work on United International flights. As soon as you activate the hotspot, it kills the connection to the United WiFi service!

    Don’t waste your money on Connectify for this purpose. I know for certain as I am on a flight as we speak.

  27. Any updates on using the T-Mobile One Plus Gogo wifi on a laptop? I tried this week on a cost to coast AA flight and was unable to turn on my iPhone’s hotspot while on the Gogo wifi.

    To be precise, I first turned on the iPhone hotspot, then turned on the Gogo wifi on the phone. Once the computer (Macbook 2015) connected to the hotspot, the wifi on the phone went out. Turning the wifi back on (with the hotspot still enabled) a pop-up message indicated that hotspot needed to be switched off in order for the wifi to work.

    Is anyone aware of a work around, perhaps by using a third party device to create the hotspot?

    Albeit not surprising, this lack of functionality renders what could have otherwise been a sensational deal (T-Mobile One Plus) rather useless.

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