In-Flight WiFi Roundup – Which International Airlines Keep You Connected
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While kicking back and catching up on trashy TV and Oscar-nominated movies during long-haul overseas flight is always enjoyable, sometimes jetsetters have work to do, and some airlines have it covered.
A few weeks ago I discussed the in-flight WiFi options aboard the major US domestic carriers. Today it’s time to look overseas to which airlines keep you connected in the skies – even over oceans – and which are on their way to doing so soon. Turns out the carriers based in the Middle East are ahead of the curve, but airlines in the Americas and Europe are playing catch up.
This Russian carrier has OnAir GSM onboard their A321 fleet and plans to have OnAir satellite-based WiFi onboard 22 A330’s and 4 Boeing 777’s by the end of this year and then equip 12 more 777’s with WiFi over the next three years. This WiFi internet system has been tested already and is currently available on five A330’s.
It’s an international airline, but Air Canada only offers Gogo in-flight internet to passengers on certain A319 aircraft flying over the United States between Montreal or Toronto and Los Angeles for $7.95 for handheld devices and $9.95 for laptops.
BA uses OnAir to provide in-flight connectivity aboard the A318’s on which it operates its Club World London City- JFK flight though the system uses GSM so you need a roaming plan and laptops require a connection dongle.
This Middle Eastern carrier is a member of Star Alliance and has installed WiFi aboard its new A330-300’s from OnAir. The airline has a lot of A330’s, but you can figure out if yours is one of these new ones, it’s got 301 total seats: 36 in business class and 265 economy seats, so look out for that configuration when you book.
Emirates grants passengers satellite WiFi service from 40,000 feet on select flights via its On-Air service. The majority of A380 flights have it, as do a select number of Boeing B777 flights. Having launched with pricing packages based on data use, Emirates continues to charge the same rates for mobile and laptop. Costs for mobile on A380 flights range from $2.75 for 5MB to $15 for 30MB. Laptop packages on A380 flights begin at $5 for 30MB and bump to $15 for 100MB. WiFi availability on flights can be confirmed here.
Etihad has plans to equip its entire fleet with WiFi by 2014. The airline already has several A330’s with OnAir WiFi connectivity and two A320 that allow mobile device users to connect with another planned to be unveiled later this month using OnAir. Laptop connection costs $20 and PDA connection will be $10.
Although it doesn’t offer WiFi service as we know it except in a limited trial aboard its A330, Finland’s national airline (and Oneworld member airline) partners with OnAir to offer both calling and internet-access capabilities so you can send messages and emails via satellite phone aboard the airline’s A330-300’s and A340-300’s.
Hong Kong Airlines
This Asian airline offers free WiFi on all A330-200 aircraft it operates on its Hong Kong – London route with OnAir.
JAL’s inflight WiFi is available on just four routes from Tokyo (Narita) to New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Jakarta. I actually used it while flying JAL First from Chicago to Narita in November and it was pretty reliable and fast enough for basic email and internet browsing.
An additional route, Tokyo (Narita) to London/Frankfurt, is planned for April 2013. Two pricing plans are offered: one hour for $11.95 and 24 hours for $21.95. Prices drop slightly ($1-$2) if passengers pay using any of the following credit cards: JAL Card, JAL USA Card and JAL/Shanghai Pudong Development Bank Credit Card.
Nearly the entire Lufthansa fleet is equipped with Lufthansa FlyNet, the first onboard broadband Internet access. The only exceptions are the A380 and Boeing 747-8 aircraft, which are gradually being retrofitted with the technology.
Two pricing options are available to passengers with smartphones and WLAN-enabled laptops: HotSpot Pass Sky 1, €10.95 ($14.20) or 3,500 miles; and HotSpot Pass Sky 24 hours, €19.95 ($25.85) or 7,000 miles. The airline even took the time to produce videos of six scenarios highlighting the joys of connectivity.
I personally used WiFi aboard an A340 from Dusseldorf to Chicago this summer for nearly 20 euros, and while it was expensive, for a long day flight like that, it could make sense to purchase it so you can get your work done and land all caught up.
This airline launched in-air internet and phone connectivity across its entire A330 fleet using OnAir back in 2010 so customers can both call and email and surf the web while onboard. Rates range between $5-$40 depending on the device and the plan you purchase.
Qatar currently offers OnAir WiFi on all its flights, but only in business class. The airline’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner also offers inflight WiFi, and pricing details are hard to unearth online and even via airline staff. Prices vary per flight and can be confirmed once a flight is booked.
Saudia offers in-flight phone and WiFi internet service using OnAir aboard all its A330’s so you can connect with your PDA or laptop and surf the web while in the air. Prices depend on your mobile service for phones as well as the connection package you purchase.
Currently, Singapore offers in-flight WiFi from OnAir aboard all its A340-500 aircraft and is gradually fitting its 777-300 and A380 fleets. You have to wait till you’re onboard to find out if your aircraft is equipped, though. The service is priced by data usage, so 30MB will cost you $25 and 10MB will cost $10.
This Brazil-based carrier currently offers OnAir’s GSM service aboard its A321 aircraft and plans to roll it out to 26 A319, A320 and A321 planes serving domestic routes by the end of 2013.
The other major European airline to offer in-flight WiFi, Portugal’s national carrier uses the OnAir system aboard its A330 fleet operating transatlantic flights between Portugal and North and South America. Rates are 6 EUR ($8.50) for 4MB and 12 EUR ($15) for 10 MB.
Turkish Airlines has added high-speed WiFi access to its existing live, in-flight television service on transatlantic flights. They plan to have WiFi on their B777-300ER and Airbus 330-300 aircraft.
Future Airline Connectivity
Aer Lingus will begin installing WiFi onboard the entire A330 fleet in May 2013, and then will focus on adding it to their domestic fleet in 2014.
Though Air France-KLM’s joint fleet is completely devoid of WiFi, there are upcoming plans to launch an inflight connectivity trial using a Boeing 777-300 aircraft from each airline. The pilot program is set to start in the second half of March and last through the end of 2013. On the heels of the trial, Air France-KLM’s mission is to roll out services on its long-haul fleet between 2014 and 2016.
ANA has been planning to install OnAir WiFi connectivity on its planes for years, and it looks like we’ll finally start seeing it aboard the airline’s B767-300ER’s and 777-300ER’s operating international routes in July.
Iberia plans to add WiFi on its entire international fleet in the near future.
Thailand’s airline has had plans for a while to introduce OnAir WiFi onto its fleet of A380’s and A330’s operating transoceanic routes and select routes between Asia and Europe, but those plans seem to have stalled for the moment with no recent updates on when these services will be introduced.
Taking a cue from its well-equipped sister airline, Virgin Atlantic plans to trial ARINC Cabin Connect WiFi on-board its A330 aircraft sometime early this year. Three A330-300s will offer the service, with passengers logging in through a hotspot portal. There have yet to be any substantial updates, and pricing information was not made available.