In the United States, in-flight Wi-Fi is a fact of life. The vast majority of major airlines offer it. It’s pricey and slow, sure, but it also allows you to stay connected at 33,000 feet.
In Europe, it’s a different story. Only a handful of airlines offer in-flight Wi-Fi, and they’re not the major ones, like Ryanair and EasyJet. But this will soon change. British Airways owner IAG has announced that the airline will start to offer the service on its short-haul routes from 2017.
Other IAG-owned airlines, including Aer Lingus, Iberia, and Vueling, will also get the service. In total 341 planes will be fitted with Wi-Fi systems, which will connect to Inmarsat’s communications satellites.
IAG reportedly told the BBC that it will be up to each individual airline whether they want to charge passengers an access fee, and how much it will cost. This means that there will likely be radically different pricing structures across the IAG family.
On many of their long-haul routes, Aer Lingus and Iberia offer in-flight Wi-Fi. Iberia’s offering has been criticized for being overpriced, with 22 MB of Internet access costing just shy of $20.
British Airways had previously announced that it intends to fit its longhaul fleet with Wi-Fi from the Chicago-based GoGo. This will be centered on its 2ku technology, which offers speeds of up to 70Mbps.
The news comes at a really unusual time for British Airways. Under the leadership of CEO Alex Cruz, the legacy carrier has started cutting back on amenities, including free meals and drinks on short-haul flights. This may placate disillusioned customers who would be tempted to jump ship to its cheaper, low-cost rivals.