Business Travel

This Man Inadvertently Racked Up a $1,171 In-Flight Wi-Fi Bill

Flying sucks these days. There's all the normal stuff – crying babies, recycled air, sneezing seatmates – but from disappearing leg room to extra charges for basic conveniences like blankets and snacks, it feels as if conditions keep getting worse.

This has led to some troubling incidents, perhaps most notably the recent rash of in-flight brawls caused by the Knee Defender, a pair of key-sized plastic claws that, if attached to the tray of a seat, keeps it from reclining.

Now comes another harrowing tale from the skies.

Jeremy Gutsche, chief executive of Toronto-based innovation consultancy Trend Hunter, reports that he unwittingly racked up a staggering Wi-Fi bill on a Singapore Airlines flight from London to Singapore earlier this month. Gutsche says he paid $28.99 for 30 megabytes of in-flight Wi-Fi, but was aware that he'd have to pay extra if he exceeded the data limit.

Related: This Little Gadget Caused an Epic Airline Passenger Brawl

And exceed the data limit he did.

"You know that epic feeling when your flight ends and you finally get to your destination? Now imagine taking those first steps off the plane, syncing your phone, and getting a $1200 bill for airplane internet use. That's what happened to me on Singapore Airlines today," he wrote in a blog post.

Gutsche claims that he only viewed 155 pages -- mostly he was checking email and uploading a PowerPoint presentation – during the flight, so the $1,142 in overcharge fees came as a complete shock.

The airline contacted the Wi-Fi provider, Switzerland-based OnAir, oh Gutsche's behalf, but ultimately he was told to pay up, The Wall Street Journal reports. For its part, OnAir disputes Gutsche's account of his Internet usage during the flight. “To consume several hundred megabytes during one flight takes much more than basic email viewing, for example downloading heavy attachments, cloud access and using Skype,” the company said in a statement to the outlet.

All of this is reminiscent of the Uber Birthday Ride Debacle that happened earlier this month, in which birthday girl Gabrielle Wathen unwittingly took a 22 minute, $367 Uber ride (she claims she failed to notice that the ride was subject to a X9 price bump, although to be fair, the ridesharing company prominently displays when surge prices are in effect).

Related: Traveling Coach on U.S. Flights Has Become a Serious Pain

After seeing the bill the next day, Wathen promptly set up a GoFundMe account. ‘Not only is it my 26th birthday, it is rent day. My rent is $450 and I can no longer pay it today due to this completely outrageous charge," she wrote, before imploring "please donate even just $1 if you think this is utter and complete bullshit and also hilarious and very, very depressing at the same time. Thanks for the ride, Muhammed.’

It worked. She raised $573, according to the Metro, more than $200 more than her goal.

In both cases, online sentiment was somewhat split; on one side, commentators were disgusted at the price-gauging. But on the other, the reaction was pretty much, what did you expect?

Multiple commenters on Gutsche's blog post expressed little sympathy, instead pointing out that he'd agreed to the terms and conditions and knew what he was getting himself into.

While Gutsche says he realized that he'd be charged if he exceeded his data limit, that doesn't make the policy right. “Just because someone agrees to terms and conditions doesn’t mean those terms are ethical,” he told the Journal. “I think the overage model is excessive and I can imagine someone like my mom, or a family, or a backpacker going aimlessly over.”

Related: The Outrageously Silly Argument Against Uber's Surge Pricing