Hawaiian Airlines to offer free Wi-Fi via SpaceX's Starlink

Fly to some paradise, tweeting as you go, arrive, relax under the stars only to watch those same satellites in the sky


SpaceX will provide free Wi-Fi for passengers flying internationally with Hawaiian Airlines as early as next year, using its Starlink broadband satellite network.

The financial terms of this contract were not revealed, and it's the first deal of its kind SpaceX has inked with a major airline. Starlink's wireless internet service will only be available on its outbound flights across the US, Asia, and Oceania for its fleet of Airbus A330 and A321neo aircraft, as well as its upcoming Boeing 787-9s, Hawaiian Airline confirmed on Monday. 

"When we launch with Starlink we will have the best connectivity experience available in the air," Peter Ingram, president and CEO of Hawaiian Airlines, said in a statement.

"We waited until technology caught up with our high standards for guest experience, but it will be worth the wait. Our guests can look forward to fast, seamless and free Wi-Fi to complement our award-winning onboard Hawaiian hospitality."

The wireless broadband service will deploy a "laser mesh network" to relay internet connectivity between Starlink satellites flying in low-Earth orbit and equipment onboard the passenger jets. The exact bandwidth speeds travelers will be able to access were not disclosed. Hawaiian Airlines, however, promised "high-speed, low-latency connectivity" that would be fast enough to support video streaming and online gaming.

"We conducted a thorough [request for proposal] and felt that Starlink best met our requirements and vision for the guest experience," a spokesperson for Hawaiian Airlines told The Register. "We expect the bandwidth and latency to be better than any options currently flying."

Only a handful of airlines offer complimentary in-flight Wi-Fi. Passengers often need to pay extra to be connected to wireless broadband, though the Starlink service will be free and won't require users to register or login into any clunky portals, apparently.

"Hawaiian Airlines is ensuring its passengers will experience high-speed internet the way we expect it in the 21st century, making hassles like downloading movies before takeoff a relic of the past," Jonathan Hofeller, vice president of Starlink Commercial Sales at SpaceX, said in a statement.

"With Starlink, the inflight experience is greatly simplified so that once passengers step onboard the plane the internet works seamlessly throughout their flight. Soon, passengers will enjoy all the benefits of having the world's best inflight internet connectivity from the comfort of their seats."

Elon Musk's SpaceX was not immediately available for further comment. 

Last week, semi-private airline JSX announced it had signed a contract with SpaceX to provide in-flight Wi-Fi connectivity. Starlink's ground internet service is right now available in New Zealand, most of the US and Europe, and parts of Chile, Brazil, and Australia. SpaceX has more than 2,000 satellites in orbit, and hopes to grow its fleet to as many as to 42,000 birds in the future. ®

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