While wi-fi in-flight entertainment has been widely adopted over the last few years, airlines have been slower to embrace onboard internet services. However while it was once considered a bit of a novelty, onboard wi-fi is now becoming increasingly available on airlines right around the globe.
The high volume of business travellers jetting about at any particular time, means that more passengers want to be able to use their laptops, tablets or smart phones on the go by connecting to an onboard hotspot. For many travellers being able to send and receive emails while at 30,000 feet is a long overdue extension of the wide availability of wi-fi in airports lounges.
It a bid to attract business travellers, and due to customer demand, onboard wi-fi is increasingly being introduced to allow passengers to access the internet via the onboard wi-fi network. Plus the good news for those who have tried it in the past and been disappointed by dropouts and slow speeds, is that overall the service quality is also progressively getting better. However with different airlines using different connectivity service providers, reliability, download speeds and costs vary considerably.
While a few airlines offer free wi-fi, especially to Business and First Class passengers, the rest have a range of usage charges. These can range from a set volume-based charge (for 10MB, for example) or a time-based charge, while other airlines are offering 24 hour, monthly and annual subscriptions for the regular business traveller.
Overall, onboard wi-fi pricing is becoming more and more competitive. For example on the long haul flight from Abu Dhabi to Sydney, Etihad passengers can pay as little as US$12 for two hours of wi-fly access or US$22 for the entire flight. Just some of the other major international airlines offering onboard wi-fi to varying degrees, and often depending on the route and aircraft, are Qantas, Air New Zealand, Emirates, British Airways, Cathy Pacific, Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa.
There are a few traps to be aware of however, especially for those using their mobile phones for text and multi-media messaging while onboard. These passengers need to be aware that the roaming charges for these services will be determined by the user’s local mobile service provider. Other restrictions to the service can also occur due to certain countries (such as India) prohibiting the use of onboard wi-fi within their airspace.
In any case, the availability and quality of onboard wi-fi is only set to improve, which is a boon for business travellers with hours to fill between destinations. So now you can put the finishing touches on that proposal and email it to the office for approval, all as you jet between Heathrow and JFK.