Beware of GSM Service On Board of Aircraft

When I recently flew from Europe to India with Lufthansa I was quite happy to have Wifi on board. For 17 Euros I could get access to the Internet for the complete flight. Not cheap but if you take the ticket price into account it’s acceptable. Like on this flight earlier in the year, connectivity was somewhat slow and patchy but good enough for many things. In addition, this plane was also equipped with a GSM cell. What sounds cool at first turns out to be a massive money trap if your are not careful.

Outgoing voice calls are priced at €3.35 per minute and a single SMS costs €83 cents. I guess not too many people are willing to pay such prices so they surely don’t have a capacity issue on that cell. Unfortunately, the GSM cell is also activated for GPRS data service and if you have enabled data roaming on your device like many people have these days the device uses the connectivity without asking. Fortunately my network operator has a landing page that informed me of the prices and barred access until I confirmed usage. And those are hefty to say the least:

€16 per megabyte!

Yes, you’ve read correctly, €16 for a single megabyte. The person next to me was not so lucky as his home network operator did not have a landing page page and his iPhone was already hard at work to synchronize background data over the GPRS network for €16 per megabyte. You can imagine how quickly he deactivated data roaming once I told him how much he’s being charged for it. Quite frankly, I’m surprised nobody has sued the airline yet for this trap.

2 thoughts on “Beware of GSM Service On Board of Aircraft”

  1. Add Cruise-Ships. They charge a lot, i guess even more, for Internet & WiFi too. They even have a better “market”. People who are on a 6 day atlantic crossing might be more willing to satisfy their online “addiction” 😉
    At least i can survive a 10hour flight without internet access, altough i’d be happy to use it if it was for an acceptable price.

    I’m wondering whether and how much EU legislation/regulation could change something here.

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