Hawaiian Airlines Launches Free In-Flight Wi-Fi Powered by Starlink From SpaceX
Hawaiian Airlines, the first significant American airline to provide the satellite-based service, is this week beginning to roll out free Wi-Fi via SpaceX’s Starlink on board commercial flights, the firms announced.
Hawaiian Airlines CEO Peter Ingram stated, “SpaceX has really cracked the code—literally, in terms of technology—to be able to deliver a wide bandwidth of very high quality connectivity to an airplane with a global reach.”
Hawaiian Airlines is increasing the amount of free Wi-Fi it offers as part of its high-speed connectivity options. Free Wi-Fi is available on board JetBlue Airways, and after years of planning, Delta Air Lines finally offered free onboard internet to members of its loyalty program last year.
Hawaiian Airlines has a vast network of flights across the Pacific Ocean, including stops from Hawaii to the continental United States, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, among other locations.
“It really feels like an experience that should not be possible when you get on a commercial airline flight. And you’re able to connect to the internet and experience it in a way that’s similar, if not better, than what you can experience in your own home,” Chad Gibbs, SpaceX’s vice president of Starlink business operations, told.
“We now have a totally different paradigm, which is that we have incredible amounts of capacity and bandwidth that we can bring to the plane,” Gibbs added.
Hawaiian and SpaceX inked a contract in April 2022 with the intention of utilizing the Starlink network, which has over 2.3 million users globally and over 5,000 satellites in low Earth orbit. Prior to now, the airline didn’t provide Wi-Fi during flights.
The deal’s worth and the cost of installing each of the Starlink terminals designed specifically for the aviation industry aboard a commercial aircraft were not disclosed by the businesses.
But “the costs of this have gone down from what the early Wi-Fi systems were,” Ingram underlined. He said Hawaiian is “actively” deploying Starlink terminals, noting that six of its Airbus A321 aircraft have the system installed thus far.
Hawaiian anticipates equipping 24 of its A330 planes and 18 of its A321 jets with Starlink later this year.
“We think it is really going to set an entirely new standard for connectivity on airplanes,” Ingram said.
The businesses had originally intended to start installing the Starlink terminals last year, but according to Ingram, installation couldn’t start until SpaceX launched more Next-Gen Starlink satellites and obtained FAA authorization.
SpaceX has been diligently working to obtain the licenses required for a large range of aircraft. Smaller aircraft have been certified for it, and semi-private charter company JSX plans to start using it in late 2022.
“To date Starlink has been used on over 30,000 flights, on flights across the U.S. and around the world,” Gibbs said.
Apart from Hawaiian, SpaceX has also disclosed agreements for Starlink in-flight Wi-Fi with airBaltic in Latvia, Zipair in Japan, and Qatar Airways.
Starlink service was recently added to Hawaiian, following the airline’s agreement to be acquired by Alaska Airlines for a reported $1.9 billion late last year.