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Remove the asterisk: AA's five disconnected aircraft to get satellite-based Wi-Fi

Nov. 14, 2019
3 min read
Remove the asterisk: AA's five disconnected aircraft to get satellite-based Wi-Fi
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In just under two years, American Airlines completed a remarkable project: installing high-speed satellite-based Wi-Fi on over 700 aircraft. When that project finished in June 2019, over 900 American Airlines aircraft featured satellite-based Wi-Fi — more than any other airline.

Yet, this project still left five AA mainline aircraft without any Wi-Fi connection at all. But, that's about to change. As initially reported by View From The Wing and confirmed by TPG, American Airlines will install Gogo 2Ku Wi-Fi on its last five mainline aircraft that don't currently have Wi-Fi.

Since completing its Wi-Fi retrofit project in June, American Airlines has needed a qualifier when boasting about its Wi-Fi prowess. Instead of its entire fleet having satellite-based Wi-Fi, AA has had to settle for saying that its "entire long-term mainline" fleet has satellite-based Wi-Fi.

That "long-term" qualifier is understandable when you dig into the numbers. At the time the project ended, there were 48 mainline aircraft with ground-based Gogo Wi-Fi. Of those, 31 have since been retired, and the other 17 Embraer E190 aircraft are currently slated for retirement by the end of 2020. So, it's understandable that AA wouldn't want to perform expensive Wi-Fi retrofits on these aircraft right before they're retired.

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However, in a mainline fleet now almost uniformly equipped with satellite-based Wi-Fi, there's a small sub-fleet of aircraft that currently are completely disconnected. AA currently has 34 Boeing 757 aircraft — which are split into two sub-fleets: 24 for international routes and 10 for Hawaii routes. In the Hawaii sub-fleet, five aircraft (N202UW, N206UW, N207UW, N938UW and N939UW) don't have any Wi-Fi connection.

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As of January 2019, AA's fleet plan called for all 10 of these Hawaii 757s to be retired. So, understandably, AA pulled the plug on retrofitting the remaining five aircraft that hadn't yet gone in for a Wi-Fi installation.

Now, the plan has changed. As of the late-October 2019 fleet update, American Airlines plans to keep all 34 of its Boeing 757s through the end of 2020 before reducing the fleet to 24 by the end of 2021. Presumably, that means the 10 aircraft in the Hawaii sub-fleet will be retired in 2021:

This change means that the Hawaii 757s will be in AA's fleet for at least another year — and plans could be changed to keep them around even longer. It seems that this is a little too long for American Airlines to have the "asterisk" about almost all of its mainline fleet having satellite-based Wi-Fi. So, American Airlines will soon be retrofitting these five remaining 757s with Gogo 2Ku routers. The project will start soon and is expected to be completed in early 2020.