The GOGO InFlight WiFi Free Google Holiday Internet Scam

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Today I have a 3 hour flight from Minneapolis to San Francisco. It’s on Delta. I am only “Gold” status on Delta so I only get upgraded about 50% of the time on domestic flights, but I like flying Delta because they always have wifi on planes.

This year it’s even sweeter because Google is paying for it for you!!!! WOOT!!!! How awesome is that.

After takeoff when it was *safe* to use electronic devices, I saw about a dozen or so people pull out their laptops. I was seated near the back of the plane, so it was interesting to watch everyone lifting up their laptops, showing others around them their screen. Evidently everyone was getting “The Internet is full” screen.

I was quickly reminded of those idiots I used to do tech support for on Windows who would ask retarded questions like “It’s asking me if I am sure I want to delete THE INTERNET.” (you’re probably too young for that). I ignored them… mostly because I was easily able to connect to the internet from my iPhone. I just had to enter my *cough* real *cough* email address and then it asked me this retardedly long captcha (really, is this necessary?). But I was online.

About 20 minutes later I thought I would switch to my laptop. And here is what I got:

Hrmm, what the hell… OK, well that’s understandable, right? I mean, it’s free so they need to limit it. I will just pay for it (I also have a bunch of pre-paid GOGO inflight cards). HRMM, what’s this… only people who are paying subscriptions can bypass the line. GREAT… But wait, what’s this thing at the bottom about mobile devices?

Ohh… ok… so I can’t pay for daily access… or use any of my pre-paid cards… and I can’t access the in-flight wifi unless I want to pay for a year subscription. That only leaves one option. We have to figure out how to trick the system into thinking my laptop is a mobile device.

Before I explain how I achieved this (easily), lemme point out how GOGO is making out like a bandit.

  • Google is paying a shit-ton to GOGO for presumably the same if not more then GOGO would normally bring in for *sponsoring* this service.
  • The wifi is sponsored by Google Chrome… but only those on mobile devices can access it (and Chrome isn’t available to them).

So GOGO is getting paid by Google like a mofo and it appears they are only letting people on who are using mobile devices that are using a fraction of their resources and can’t even take advantage of what Google is advertising?  Amazing irony.

Ive been reading 2600 for so long that about 100 different ways to do this popped into my head.  The easiest (and least likely to work) was just to change the useragent.  So I opened Firefox and put in about:config into the address bar.  This lets you edit the configuration of your Firefox browser.

I looked for the useragent string and just replaced what was in there with “iPhone.”  I was fairly certain this would not work but what the hell…

Then I went to google.com again… and it took me directly to entering my email to get started (like it did on my iPhone):

After the captcha page I was taken to the success page:

Notice how  it thinks I am using a mobile browser…. winnar!

Now I fire up Chrome and surf away:

GREAT SUCCESS!

Ok, now we are landing.  Sorry for typos… couple drinks on the plane.

92 thoughts on “The GOGO InFlight WiFi Free Google Holiday Internet Scam

  1. Dave Lawlor

    There are always ways around if you know how the systems work. At least you had internet, I have been without for the last 2 flights I took, I need to start telling the secretary what airlines to book on.

      1. Norman Nevelle

        It took roughly a year for American Air to roll out Wi-Fi service on most of their Boeing MD-80 (S80) airplanes, and currently American Airlines has 150 airplanes running wireless service. Wi-Fi access on airplanes is quickly becoming the norm and we can consider American Air one of the leaders offering this service. Hope they could sort out the crappy landing pages sooner or later. :(

    1. Jim Petersen

      AA, Virgin America and select Continental Airlines are some of those offering Gogo Inflight Internet service. You could choose any of those, including Delta, in your next trip if you’re after WiFi services.

      1. Nicholas Oli

        If my memory serves me right, American Airlines (AA) made history by becoming the first airline in the USA to offer web access — particularly Gogo — on domestic flights. This service is not exclusive to AA though, as Air Canada, AirTran, Delta, United and Virgin America flights all use the same wireless service. 572 planes across the country have the service though.

      2. Baseer Hannan

        From Legit Reviews: Gogo Inflight Internet works by using cell tower communications with ground-based phones that are owned by parent company Aircell. Aircell has built a mobile broadband network of ground towers covering the entire sky above the continental US. Equipment onboard the plane continuously selects the best signals from the towers below.

      1. Brian Siu

        Actually, Gogo sign-up is easy as pie. All I had to do is turn on Wifi and connect to the link that was being broadcast throughout the plane. After I was connected it was just as if I was at a hotel. My web session was redirected to a sign in page where I had to pay $12.95 for unlimited use for the duration of my flight.

        Alright, nobody here wants technical crap but I’ll type it anyway. The speed of the connection was much faster than I anticipated for being 30,000 feet in the sky. Speed test showed the connection seemed to be capped with an average speed of 1,140 kb/s down and 255 kb/s up. In other words, a definite win in my book.

    2. Melanie Johnson

      I’m probably one of those few people who aren’t thrilled with the idea of inflight Internet. I consider the flight time as a brief reprieve from work and emails. I’d much rather read or sleep.

      1. BearPile

        Good for you. But not all business travelers can stay disconnected for so long. The service provides people like those with the option to access the Internet if they want.

  2. d3so

    Pretty neat trick. I thought you would’ve tethered the connection from your iPhone but changing the useragent works as well.
    Did you help out anyone else or were they left dumbfounded?

    1. Austin

      How much is Gogo’s service for cross-country flights? In your previous flights, was the service worth the cost?

      1. Alan Alan

        I spent $9.95 the last time I accessed the wireless service. The flight was less than 3 hours. Speed was okay.

        1. Fridtjof Salomon

          I’ve always been a penny-pincher and I won’t be subscribing to Gogo or any other in-flight web services as long as they won’t be lowering the rate at $5 the most. With all the TSA crap you encounter before getting on your flight, you should at least have a complimentary web access. Anybody with me here?

      2. WhateverWorks

        It all depends on why you need the service in the first place. If it’s for work and other important transactions that you can’t afford to delay then it’s well worth it. Otherwise, I don’t see how a few hours of downtime could hurt.

        1. melg

          Unless you really need to be on the internet in those few hours you are on the flight, you don’t really need it.

    2. WhoSaysWhat01

      This might give kids out there a wrong idea. Circumventing systems isn’t always a good thing.

      1. Kevin A

        I am all for free stuff but I wouldn’t really recommend downloading just anything from the web these days. Stumbled upon a scammish offer in my email the the other day that required me to key in my email address just to “get access to my favorite tunes.” On the other hand, how the heck did they know what my “favorite tunes” are?

      2. Patrick R

        Could you *cough* post them right here, Jeremy? I may need some *cough* help when I need Internet access tomorrow when I fly to Denver…

      3. Almira Keefe

        Apparently you didn’t try ANY of the following:

        iTunes
        streaming media (NBC/abc/fox/CNN)
        google voice
        Skype
        YouTube
        email attachements over 1mb

  3. Charles Bohannan

    Shoe — love the story. More than that I actually love the typos. I’m a writing/spelling/grammar stickler but for some reason I really dig your freeflow style. Wouldn’t have it any other way.

    1. Dmitrii Anastas

      I learned on WindowsObserver that the GoGo Inflight service offers to keep a status window open through your Internet browser to help you keep track of your connection status and have quick access to your account. It even senses when your airplane begins its descent and warns you that the connection will terminate below 10,000 feet and to be sure to save your work.

      1. Vince

        One note, it would be more convenient if you could pay with PayPal as sitting in coach and having to take your wallet out and pay using a credit card number can be cumbersome not to mention everyone around you can see you enter your information.

  4. Simon Dodd

    Great post!!

    Thanks for that!

    Now just to clear up my about:config page so I can actually find that line!!! I have so many addons to my firefox it is about three miles long and takes a couple of days to boot up!!

    Thanks for the great tip though, not sure when I’ll be able to use it over here in Blighty though!

    1. Mark Dee

      Got any tips how I could bypass the system on American Airlines? (By the way, Shoe, have you got any updates on the Humongo Nation tour next year? I would love to get my online publishing gig on their list.) :)

      1. Get That Ball

        I think they use the same inflight Internet WiFi service provider so you could probably try the trick there, too.

      2. Hans Anders

        I think you should check out Humongo Nation’s blog for updates. With all the people wanting to get on the list, it’s a battlefield out there. Want to make a mark? Why not get Shoe to recommend you? Smart, eh?

      1. Rylan Howie

        with Gogo, I was able to check my email, RSS feeds, Twitter via Seesmic Desktop, Windows Live Messenger and do general web surfing. I did not have time to try FTP or other protocols to see if they would work or not. Nonetheless, great job on “hacking” the system, Shoe. :)

    1. sasha_482

      That’s why I never travel without my ebook reader. I don’t have time to get bored or worry about inaccessible WiFi services.

      1. Manisha Sithembile

        Mobile internet has reached new heights, literally-speaking and it will continue to reach places where internet is unheard of. Wherever you are, whether at sea, or on the ground, or even if you are up in the air, there would be no interruption for you accessing your email, your favorite websites, and even chat using your favorite social networking site. Hooray for technology!

    1. Richard Pascal

      Gogo and Delta ran a promotion through December 31, 2009 whereby first-time users can try the service for free. I thought that this would be a good opportunity to test the service on my iPhone 3GS, so I followed the simple instructions on the card in my seatback pocket, entered “deltatrygogo” in the promo code blank when I got to the payment page, and within a minute I was on the Internet, which I used throughout my four hour flight. I thought the service was great but I never had the chance to access it again since I now settle on bus rides since I moved to Chicago.

  5. Rod S. Lee

    Come to think of it, airline companies want to expand in-flight wi-fi access as a business, too. Well, if you don’t know how to get your way around the access maze then you better wait until you land and find a free one.

    1. AurorMine

      I believe there’s one crucial component left here. How about the free Internet access provided by mobile companies? Why pay twelve bucks when you can have it for free?

    2. GQmeansGeek

      That’s probably why they limit free access. They can’t just make everyone use the service throughout the duration of the flight. It’ll be unfair for those who paid for subscriptions.

    3. F2Xsites

      Much better to just subscribe for unlimited access if you often use flight time to catch up on some work.

  6. Andrew Says So

    I haven’t tried the inflight wireless service yet. I’ve read some mixed reviews so I’m not sure if paying for a few hours of Internet access while in flight is worth it.

    1. Farzad H.

      I recently flew from Atlanta to Buffalo and opted to purchase Gogo. I would have been better off buying three cans of the $3.00 Pringles. Don’t waste your money.

    1. Roshaun Philips

      Stumbled upon this post excerpt while researching about Gogo right after reading this: Aircell, a US-based internet service provider, has announced that its Gogo Inflight Internet, an in-flight broadband internet service, has been installed in a total of 1,000 aircraft to date. Well, if you’d ask me, Google Chrome would pretty much seal the deal right then and there if profits were to be discussed. Right, Shoe?

      1. Screechy Rich

        Just remember that the most common web scam of all? Phishing emails and phony web pages. Recalled them immediately right after I saw one of the photos you shared.

    2. Husher50

      They must have launched that promo recently because it wasn’t available during my Delta flight early November.

  7. John Dillon

    Just to make a statement here, because of Gogo, anyone who has mobile internet access capable gadgets like laptops and smartphones and even PDA’s can access the internet even when their feet are not on the ground. What’s your take on this, Shoe?

    1. SmallBiz Sue

      I just can’t imagine how Nikolai Tesla and Thomas Edison would react if they read this post… :D

  8. Mike Chiasson

    +1 for being a reader of 2600. I do the same thing on my Server 08 desktop. Just go change your registry to say WindowsVista and you can install any app that isn’t intended for the server.

    On the other side though, I was working on some software an encouraged our developers to put a small bit in that would error out on install if the OS didn’t = Win XP, Vista, 7, so that we could charge customers for software assurance for future versions. They couldn’t see the cash cow in this.

    1. PokeYerFace

      With nothing but air between these towers and your plane, you’re always getting the best connection no matter where your flight is in North America. Never experienced a bad service from Gogo yet ever since I began using it in 2008.

  9. ILoveMemes

    I’ve just booked a UA flight for next week. A friend who told me that she was able to avail of the Gogo Inflight Internet service for free using an HP promo code.

  10. Raul Lago

    Well, I think that we’ll be enjoying free in-flight web access in the next five years. Enough said. Time for a Tecate to top off my nice evening. :P

    1. B.Logan

      Aircell was the purveyor of the revolutionary and innovative mobile broadband network supply for most types of flights back in 2006. Together with Gogo, they provided the best internet service at above thirty five thousand feet. Aside from the mobile internet access business, Aircell network is also engaged in airplane cabin services such as television, video, and audio, among other things.

    1. TheSandMan5050

      That’s elevating the Internet experience to greater heights. I don’t think the novelty would wane anytime soon.

    2. medomoc

      Looks like there are few places left where you can sit back, relax, and not worry about mails and work.

  11. MVZP_01

    I paid roughly $13 to catch a hockey game. I only managed to watch part of the game. I think it works best in general web browsing but not much on video streaming.

  12. Sturgis 2011

    I love the wifi on Delta and Free is even better. It worked well on the flight from Minneapolis to ATL but there wasn’t many people using laptops. Nice catch changing header, I love that stuff.

  13. Gabby Dell from SC

    I tried out their subscription, but found that on at least two WIFI-enabled flights, the system was failing to connect to ground. Unless you’re traveling a lot, you’re risking being “robbed”

  14. Yes2Freebies

    I’ll make sure to check which airlines are offering free access before I book. I don’t want to pay for subscription since I don’t travel much anyway.

  15. newmediaist12

    If I’m on a business trip then I’d pay for WiFi Internet access. But there’s no way I’m going to do that for personal trips. I already spend the better part of each day online. Separating myself from the Internet for a few hours is one of the few things I look forward to during flights.

  16. WilmaP

    Do they have a cash payment option if I decide onboard that I want access? If not, how secure is their site?

  17. Abhik

    GEEZ!!
    Man, this is exactly how I download Nokia OVI apps on my computer.
    I just change the user-agent to N97 Mini compatible one.

  18. Aaron

    I was able to connect to the free GoGo Wireless Internet on Virign America last night using both my iPhone and my laptop. I had no problems so I doubt this is some big conspiracy.

  19. aimClear

    Thanks for this post. Thanks for reaching out. The problem for me is that I am a monthly paying customer, and GOGO offered the whole flight free service, degrading your my bandwidth and access. I was greeted with a big red screen that said “why are you bothering to pay for this Marty?”

    Rule #1 of special-offers/free trial marketing: either clean your data and do it quietly, so no paying customers are offended or (if you must promote loudly) preempt the reaction from your treasured existing clients by giving them something…even a “hey thanks for being our customer.” Remember, sometimes airplane customers are a cranky lot. For instance, I’ve just had 2 horrible days of flying, storms, broken planes, etc…. for a 1 cay trip to NY from MSP. The last thing I want is to feel stupid for being the one guy on the plane who paid for the Internet.

    I won’t cancel my service after this, because I need it. However, GOGO’s marketing team needs some coaching, no matter how fancy their agency is. :) Thanks for the post. It made my morning.

  20. Robert Merrill

    Stupid thing is Google and GoGo sound close enough, I bet Google gets mentally blamed for the bummer connection.

  21. Sockmoney

    I just spend 7 hours on a Delta flight to Europe with “free” Google wifi. Never once did I get it to work. I didn’t even get a friendly we are full message. It just flat out failed and gave a connection error every time I tried to use (every couple hours I would try again).

    No wonder it is free.

    1. Scoobydoo

      There is no Gogo Inflight service on flights to Europe, so I have no idea what you were trying to connect to.

      Gogo is only over land (U.S.) and about 50 miles off the coast, and it is not installed on ANY international planes except some Air Canada planes, certainly not present on ANY Delta international routes.

      In other words, you spent 7 hours trying to connect to nothing.

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