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Accessing the Cloud From the Clouds

“Anytime, anywhere,” the ubiquitous catchphrase for the cloud, holds true mostly—except when you fly on UK airlines.

On the way to CTIA this year, I discovered that a former boss was sitting directly behind me. We got to swapping war stories about nightmare flights and catching up on where our other colleagues had gone. That, of course lead to us having to check LinkedIn, and… that was that. No access.

I travel a lot for work, and know that had we been on a U.S., German, Singaporean, etc. airline, there would have been in-flight Wi-Fi. But for some reason, UK airlines still don’t have it. The closest to inflight Internet access is on a single BA route, which goes London City to JFK. Whilst this is a route I could use a few times a year there are a few challenges to overcome. Firstly this is a Club World only flight, which prices it out of the range of a lot of travellers. However the far bigger challenge is that it doesn’t offer in-flight Wi-FI but rather in-flight GSM access. So you have to use your mobile phone (if your plan supports tethering) or you’ll need to get a GSM dongle for you laptop. On top of that, you’re then paying international roaming data rates for access—assuming your mobile operator has a roaming agreement in place with the provider of the service. In summary: it won’t be cheap or easy.

This service also isn’t compatible with iPass, which I use to keep my data costs down when travelling. If you don’t use iPass, then there look to be a few other ways to get cheaper in-flight Wi-Fi but only good on US airlines.

So, the cloud's great—except when you’re in the clouds. Of course, well-written solutions do caching, but there’s plenty of work I always seem to think I can do on my flights that requires access to the actual cloud. What’s the holdup in the UK?

Why does Virgin America have Wi-Fi, but Virgin Atlantic doesn’t?