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Spirit Airlines completes Wi-Fi rollout — with a catch

July 13, 2022
4 min read
spirit airlines plane
Spirit Airlines completes Wi-Fi rollout — with a catch
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The next time you fly on Spirit Airlines, there’s a very good chance you’ll be able to enjoy its new Wi-Fi service.

The Miramar, Florida-based ultra-low-cost carrier on Wednesday celebrated a big milestone: the completion of Wi-Fi installations on its fleet of bright yellow Airbus A320s and A321s. The airline's 31 Airbus A319s will remain disconnected, at least for now.

Passengers will have access to two tiers of service: a browsing tier that starts at $2.99 and a streaming tier with speeds 20 times faster than the browsing tier, starting at $5.99. The dynamically-priced Wi-Fi will top off in the $15-16 range on longer flights, Spirit officials told reporters. During Spirit's test phase of the Wi-Fi, the browsing tier has been a flat $1, while the streaming tier has been a flat $3. Higher pricing was expected: Spirit — like all ULCCs — earns a significant portion of its revenue from charging customers for extras like seat selection and baggage.

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Spirit Wi-Fi has been a long time coming. The airline — the only American ULCC to offer the service — first signed a contract with the French connectivity company Thales in 2018 for its FlytLIVE system, with an aim for fleetwide connectivity by the end of the summer of 2019. That got delayed due to the need to replace antennas on certain aircraft, and then further delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reviews of Spirit's Wi-Fi have been generally positive during the test phase, and the service is set to improve even more by September when the fleet transitions to a new satellite. Speeds of up to 400 megabits per second download and 100 megabits per second upload were mentioned by Jeffrey Payne, Thales' vice president of development. The service covers Spirit's entire route network, which stretches as far south as Lima, Peru.

Wi-Fi can be purchased at Spirit.com at the time of booking effective today, on Spirit's app effective Aug. 10 or onboard any Spirit flight that offers it. Right now, the price is the same regardless of when the Wi-Fi is purchased, though longer-term, the company plans to offer customers a discount for purchasing Wi-Fi ahead of time, as is the case with most of the extras it offers. The company also plans to also offer Wi-Fi as part of its popular bundles that can be purchased at booking, but for now, it will be offered as a standalone item.

As far as the Wi-Fi holdouts in Spirit's fleet go, its A319 aircraft are older aircraft that are currently undergoing review by the company as it assesses its long-term fleet plans. And, due to high customer demand, the airline's newest-delivery A320neos will also enter into service this summer fresh from Airbus, without the Wi-Fi equipment installed. That will come this fall.

More: Inflight Wi-Fi is getting cheaper across US airlines

Spirit also is assessing the possible use of its Wi-Fi to provide real-time data about weather and other operational matters to its pilots on company-issued tablet computers, a practice in place at many other airlines.

Spirit, of course, is also the target of two competing acquisition deals. JetBlue, which hopes to acquire the airline for $33.50 per share, currently offers free Viasat Wi-Fi on its entire fleet, the only U.S. airline to do so. Frontier Airlines, which hopes to merge with Spirit in a deal worth less money but supported by Spirit's board, does not offer any Wi-Fi. Spirit shareholders are supposed to vote July 27 on the Frontier deal — a fourth delay that was announced early Wednesday.

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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