THE BLOG

Why I Hate Wifi on Planes

08/05/2015 14:01 BST | Updated 08/05/2016 10:59 BST

'I'm terribly sorry ladies and gentlemen,' came the apologetic voice of the cabin crew on my flight last week, 'but I'm afraid our usual wifi service won't be operating today.' Four hours of internet-free flight stretched ahead of me - and I couldn't help feeling relieved. There are all kinds of announcements you don't want to hear on a plane. But for me, broken wifi isn't one of them.

It used to be that planes were one of the few places where no-one could reach you, all electronic devices very definitely turned off or switched to flight mode, where I could escape email, social media, my bosses, everyone.

Now there's dozens of airlines offering it inflight. Even Ryanair is planning to trial it later this year, although I can't help thinking that's another excuse to charge passengers. But the downside of never having to switch off your phone is that you're never able to switch off your phone.

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Is too much to want somewhere where I can sit back guilt-free without the thought I should be checking my inbox, updating Instagram with photos of clouds and generally carrying on with life?

On the ground, I can't do my job without my smartphone and there's a very real possibility I'd struggle to live my life properly. I've got apps to tell me where to find an open wifi signal and how fast it is, whether I'm in a pub, a park or in Paris.

According to one survey from Holiday Extras, a quarter of Britons even think wifi is becoming a human right, even at 35,000ft, but I love the excuse to sit back with a drink and a guidebook or trashy movie - or these days, to help my daughter with her Peppa Pig stickers and a spot of colouring without feeling like I should be on Twitter.

Besides, what can you really do with wifi on the plane? You're not going to be streaming movies (anyway, in-flight entertainment is right there). You're limited to how many exciting updates you can put on social media - 'On the plane!' 'Still on the plane!' 'The guy behind me is kicking my seat again'.

Even if I spotted a vitally important message, there's not much I can do about it. I can't call anyone to offer help or sympathy, I probably can't even answer a work query without having the contents of my office tucked into my hand luggage.

In fact, pretty much all I can do is email back to say I'm on a plane and will get back to them when I land, then fret about it for the next few hours. So they're no better off than if my devices were stashed away and I'm slightly worse off. Another good reason to hate wifi on planes.

I already feel slightly naked without my phone, patting my pocket to reassure myself it's still there a hundred times a day or trying to do everything one-handed because the other one is full of technology. It's slightly scary to think things have got to the point where no-one can go even a few hours without being connected. Where we can't switch off unless we're forced to.

And once one airline starts to introduce it, the rest will surely follow. Which means that in another year or two, I suspect my final wifi-free refuge will have disappeared entirely. For now, I've got my fingers crossed for more apologetic announcements from cabin crew.

Image: University of Washington Libraries Digital Collections/Flickr Creative Commons