Emirates Increasing Wi-Fi Rates Up to 15x Starting June 14

Jun 2, 2017

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Update 7/6/2017: Today Emirates tweaked its Wi-Fi pricing again, setting up tiered pricing for its Skywards members and elites

Status Class Wi-Fi Pricing
Skywards Platinum and Gold members All Free unlimited Wi-Fi for entire flight
Skywards Silver and Blue members First and Business Free unlimited Wi-Fi for entire flight
Skywards Silver members Economy 20MB free within the first 2 hours of log in
Additional 150MB for $4.99
Additional 500MB for $7.99
Skywards Blue members Economy 20MB free within the first 2 hours of log in
Additional 150MB for $6.99
Additional 500 MB for $10.99
Non-Skywards customers All 20MB free within the first 2 hours of log in
Additional 150MB for $9.99
Additional 500MB for $15.99

Update 6/14/2017: Today, Emirates announced that it’s doubling the free data allotment from 10MB to 20MB for all passengers. The rates for the larger packages remains the same:

Emirates wifi

Along with this update, Emirates provided the following statement about the reason for the shift in Wi-Fi pricing:

We’ve introduced a minimal fee for some of our products and services as it gives them a wider range of choices to suit their needs. Our customers will still enjoy the superior Emirates service and products available on the ground and on board.

Starting June 14, Emirates is implementing new Wi-Fi rates, with the price of a 500MB package jumping 15x for most passengers. While that seems like a negative change, this might actually be a good thing depending on how you use Wi-Fi on-board.

Currently, Emirates gives all passengers — regardless of class — 10MB of free Wi-Fi. This is quite generous, as some airlines charge $12 and others charge $10 for the same amount of data. If you need more data, Emirates currently has a very cheap option: a $1 charge for up to 500MB of Wi-Fi.

There’s even a promo code box if $1 is too much.

Here’s the problem: So many passengers — in fact, 750,000 customers per month — pay the one buck fee that the Wi-Fi speeds are rendered useless. I experienced this for myself on a recent Emirates flight. Turns out, an entire A380 of passengers trying to connect to one satellite-based connection doesn’t provide the best online experience, even if everyone is restricted to just using their phones.

Merely communicating via the text-based Slack application was an incredibly frustrating task, with messages failing to send more often than making their way through. The connection was so weak that I couldn’t even run a speed test to confirm exactly how slow the connection was.

It seems that Emirates has gotten the message that something has got to change. According to an internal document obtained by One Mile At A Time, Emirates will have a three-tier Wi-Fi pricing plan starting June 14:

  • Free for 10MB (for up to two hours of connection)
  • $9.99 for 150MB package
  • $15.99 for 500MB package

There’s an exception: first and business class passengers who are Emirates Skywards members will get free Wi-Fi “for the whole flight.” And you shouldn’t wait to sign up for Skywards until during the flight:

Customers in premium cabins who sign up for Emirates Skywards membership can only start taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi privileges from their next flight onwards.

We applaud this new pricing structure: it still gives light-data users a chance to connect for at least part of the flight for free. But, hopefully this pricing change will clear out enough perpetually connected passengers to allow more bandwidth for data-dependent users.

This pricing structure brings Emirates more in line with airlines like American Airlines that charge $19 on long-haul international flights — rather than other carriers that charge $40 per 100MB. While Emirates’ new plan isn’t unlimited, 500MB sets a high enough limit that most data-heavy passengers should be able to browse faster than before while still having data left at landing.

H/T: One Mile At A Time

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