Can You Stream Netflix Movies At 30,000 Feet?

Not happy with your in-flight entertainment selections? Well, if you have access to onboard WiFi, the folks at say you might be able to stream Netflix films to your iPad or laptop.

The site cites two Twitter accounts that claimed to have used their in-flight WiFi to access Netflix’s Watch Instantly selections on an iPad and with “not too shabby” results.

Has anyone else tried this? We’d like to hear from you.

Netflix on a Plane: Streaming Works at 30,000 Feet []


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  1. James says:

    I’ve thought about this too – but would certainly need a power port for the fast draining batteries. I’ll stick to my downloaded shows and movies and the darkest setting with the window shade shut.

    • Dutchess says:

      complain if you want but this is where the 8-9 hours of battery life I get out of my ipad really pays off.

      • pantheonoutcast says:

        You get 9 hours of battery on an iPad with WiFi on playing back a video file?? I’m not asking to be snarky, but damn, that’s pretty efficient.

        • Dutchess says:

          The battery seems to last forever…I’ve not tested it for full video streaming that long but I’ve watched 4 movies on it before and did stuff inbetween and it still had juice left.

    • Stiv says:

      My iPad’s battery could readily handle the flight time….

    • waka flaka says:

      Also, the last time I flew continental, I was surprise to find that every seat had a power port under it. This was on a 4 hour domestic flight in coach. The flight didn’t have wifi but it was great for watching movies the whole flight, and if continental’s adding plugs maybe other airlines will too.

    • sleze69 says:

      My Dell D630 with the expansion port battery (instead of the DVD player) gets about 8 hours. I am SO gonna try this next time I fly :)

  2. Yankees368 says:

    i watched my slingbox on my HTC evo via Delta gogo wifi, and it was great! speeds were over 1 meg a second, which is actually faster than what I get on the ground with sprint, lol

  3. nodaybuttoday says:

    what airlines offer onboard wifi?

    • badachie says:

      I know AirTran does.

    • Pryde987 says:

      AA is aggressively rolling out WiFi compared to the other legacy carriers; however, for the most part it completely depends on the route.

      • anime_runs_my_life says:

        Yeah, pretty aggressively. They were handing out cards with free codes to use on that particular flight. However, when you try to use it, you have to have a credit card handy as the codes only worked for an hour or so. A lot of people were complaining about that after we got off the flight and pretty much ignored the gogo guy when he came around our gate to offer the codes to us.

    • Commenter24 says:

      Southwest is starting to roll-out on-board wifi, too.

      • farker says:

        Yeah on my last Southwest flight there was an article about this in the in-flight magazine.

        Basically Southwest is late to the game because they wanted a satellite-to-plane system instead of ground-to-plane. Supposed to be faster and more reliable, according to said article.

    • bendee says:

      AirTran and Virgin America offer it on all their fleet; AA has it on all 767-200s and most MD-80s. Delta has it on all MD-80s/90s and some 737/757/767s. Other airlines have it sporadically throughout the fleet.

  4. skapig says:

    The rest of the passengers will surely appreciate you sucking up considerable bandwidth for streaming video.

    • James says:

      I’m scheduled to teach a science class to a group of Japanese children via webcam on that flight as well.

      And turn my dishwasher on.

    • jason in boston says:

      What is going to happen when I WoW, or even torrent my favorite linux distro?

      Oh yea, the airlines have routers that throttle each MAC address to only have x bandwidth. These are basic in even the low end business grade routers that you buy. If they don’t, sucks to be everyone else on my next flight.

      • satoru says:

        Playing WoW isn’t very bandwidth intensive so your impact to other people would be minimal. As for downloading a distro, one might ask why you’d be doing that on a plane to begin with.

        Ultimately it will depend on how many people are using the service at any given time. Because most plane wifis are paid services, you’re not going have the entire plane using the single wifi connection. Thus congestion probably won’t be a huge issue compared to say iPhone data usage woes in major metropolitan areas.

        Though the article mentions latency, I’m not sure if latency is a huge issue for streaming. As long as you have a fat enough pipe to download at 1mbps, the latency probably isn’t a factor in how good it would look. It probably would be more of a factor in something like WoW which is latency dependent, rather than bandwidth dependent.

      • nodaybuttoday says:

        I always wanted to fly to LA while my mage is flying on her epic flying mount!

  5. LD says:

    Assuming you can get the onboard wifi to work. My husband recently flew on AirTran and tried to sign up for it. The website wouldn’t register any credit cards, and he couldn’t register them from the plane either.

  6. elfxmilhouse says:

    I tried streaming Netflix on my iPad on a Virgin America flight. It took forever to buffer and the playback was not smooth. I gave up after a few attempts.

  7. Moirne says:

    Streaming Netflix works via the Gogo inflight wifi, but the results are unpredictable. It basically relies on how much your fellow passengers are using the bandwidth. I managed to get a couple episodes of LOST in before the streaming pace slowed to unwatchable on a cross-country flight.

  8. dlynch4 says:

    I did it recently on an AirTran flight from ATL->SFO on my iPad. Netflix was ok, would buffer a lot though. The ABC app didn’t work though, it would start loading the video on then end up back on the shows page.

  9. Giolon says:

    On a recent flight on Virgin, I was able to stream movies with AirVideo from my home computer to my iPad on the in-flight wifi. It was fantastic. =D

    • Excuse My Ambition Deficit Disorder says:

      I was just wondering if anyone had used that program on the planes. Good to know…always like the some what free alternative compared to paying for Netflix.

  10. jeff_the_snake says:

    netflix uses really good compression or something. i’ve been using it while tethered to my evo quite a bit around my new pad since the internet isn’t hooked up here yet. 2 hours of video comes out to 4 or 5 hundred megabytes.

  11. Dean Whitney says:

    Tried it recently on an Alaskan flight (the airline has terrible inflight entertainment by the way).
    I think I nearly brought down the network. I didn’t even get close to playing a movie.

    • Fair&Balanced says:

      Alaskan Air has those 7″ LCD players loaded with TV shows, Movies, and Music for only $7.
      That is much better than most airlines that have nothing like continental, united, or american.

      Nothing beats Airtran, you get both XM radio and internet.

  12. TheGreySpectre says:

    100GB is 13 completely uncompressed direct image dvd copies or roughly 140 dvds compressed to a different codec. I fail to see why you would need more then that on a single flight. That is pretty loose on space too, a good deal of netbooks have 160gig or 320gig HDs, so that still leaves 60GB-220GB available for OS and programs on a Netbook. on an actual normal laptop you can have up to a TB of space for stuff so that is even an even bigger movie selection All that at DVD quality as opposed to the potentially limited quality depending on connection of netflix and without having to deal with buffering.

    Also, not having to connect to wifi saves a good deal of battery life.

    Don’t get me wrong wifi on airlines is a neat concept I just don’t think it is the place for streaming movies. I also question weather their connections can support many people streaming video. It is quite possible your movie could be cut short when 10 other people are also trying to stream movies at the same time.

    I think I will stick to the offline option for right now.

  13. anime_runs_my_life says:

    I’d be more concerned about the battery drain. I know that if I use the wifi on my iPod, it drains the battery a lot faster than if I just use it to listen to music or play games. We were told by the flight attendants not to stream anything because it would bog down the wifi for everyone else.

  14. Npakaderm says:

    On a somewhat related note, I briefly logged in to World of Warcraft from my last Airtran flight. The connection was pretty awful but I was able to do some stuff. Aside from that I just did some e-mailing, etc. It was great for basics but it seemed too flakey to do anything more demanding. I should have tried Netflix streaming though, it didn’t even cross my m ind.

  15. QueenofSheepsbaaah says:

    The speed took me back to my dial up days but on my most recent Norfolk to Seattle trip on AirTran I managed to play most of my favorite Facebook games without too much frustration. It’s just not advanced enough at this point to keep me from strangling the asshole across the aisle trying to watch Netflix while I’m attempting to harvest my watermelons in Farmville.

  16. dfw214 says:

    i watched netflix on my ipad while i was on my (delta) flight from chicago to dallas over the 4th of july weekend. it worked perfectly wasn’t choppy or slow and never had to wait for the video to load.