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Airplanes Should Not Have Wi-Fi

Ock Sportello

Flying is terrible. The whole ordeal, while often a necessity, is to be avoided at all costs. Your flight is never scheduled for a sensible time. There is always a new pay-to-play innovation that conspires to make the security line you are standing in at any given moment both longer and more unendurable. You find yourself paying $20 for a shitty smoothie and coffee. You are jammed onto a plane so full of awful people that you convince yourself of the inherent awfulness of wherever you are going. There is always something in your hands.


And yet the worst part of a flight, for any sane person, is the near-absolute knowledge that your plane is going down. To fly is to be completely convinced, from the moment the doors close to the moment you pull into the gate, that you will die in a heap of burning wreckage. If you’re lucky, you will be among the first people named in the obituary. Hopefully it will be announced that you had potential and passions. In reality, you will likely have died listening to an embarrassing podcast and playing 2048.


There is something poetic, then, about the fact that up until recently flights did not have internet access. Boarding a flight and equipping airplane mode (and, of course, airplane mode too is bullshit – if keeping your phone’s service on would crash the plane, why can I bring my phone on the plane? Or at least why can’t I bring in a water, instead of being forced to steal one from the self-checkout at the fully automated Hudson News?) means experiencing a sort of social death – you are cut off, your messages will come in green, you cannot scroll Twitter or text your mother that you love her upon your first bout of turbulence. Throughout the entire, infuriating process of catching a flight, it is only this experience of isolation that makes any semblance of sense. Your absolute knowledge of your impending death is made real, in a sense, by the fact that your lack of connectivity has already rendered you socially dead.


And then the payoff, if you are fortunate enough to land – the surge of notifications, the emails, the apps you’d thought you’d disabled. The purest form of dopamine rush. The digital answer to the age-old question: who would come to my funeral? A group text, if you’re lucky.


Now they are trying to take even this peace and payoff from us. Planes now seem universally equipped with wifi, structured like all other parts of the airport experience into tiers. Messaging is free, surfing comes with a cost. This should not be.


Airplane messaging wifi sucks. You cannot receive pictures or voice notes, you can hardly send a text. And yet the advent of free messaging wifi makes it rude to not at least try to enable it. Now, instead of the peaceful embrace of a silent phone, you get a machine sputtering to receive messages, sending things out of order, a digital turbulence to match the rocking plane you’re stuck on. I’ve never tried to pay for wifi, because I don’t want to give these people any of my money, but I’m sure it’s pretty bad too.


Equipping airplanes with internet access has destroyed the only vaguely calming thing about flying. Now, it’s just all choppy, expensive, and worse than being on the ground.


If you enjoyed today’s moot, follow Ock Sportello on Twitter. If you are feeling generous, consider donating to Women With a Vision, Ock’s charity of choice.

*For each moot, we generate a cover image using  DALL·E, an AI art platform that generates images using natural language processing. This image on the right was generated using the title, 'Airplanes Should Not Have Wi-Fi' in the style of Robert Crumb, the Ock's artist of choice.*

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DALL·E 2022-10-03 20.15.10 - airplane wifi by Robert crumb.png

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