Air New Zealand Introduces Free Inflight Wifi, No Strings Attached

Filed Under: Air New Zealand, Travel Technology

Airplane wifi has come a long way. It used to be a special treat to get inflight wifi, while it’s increasingly becoming the norm. With that, we’re also seeing airlines use wifi as a point of differentiation.

We’ve seen some airlines offer high speed inflight wifi, while we’ve seen other airlines roll out free wifi in some capacity.

The catch is that very few airlines offer truly free wifi. There are some airlines that do (like JetBlue), but it’s much more common for airlines to offer some sort of free wifi with strings attached. For example, Alaska and Delta offer free inflight texting, but if you want wifi beyond that, you have to pay. Similarly, other airlines offer 10MB of free wifi, but that may only last you a few minutes.

One airline that’s a fairly late adaptor when it comes to inflight wifi is Air New Zealand. The airline only started trialing inflight wifi in late 2017:

  • The carrier’s A320neo and A321neo aircraft were delivered with wifi
  • They’re currently retrofitting their 777-200s and 777-300s with wifi
  • They expect to add wifi to their fleet of 787s in late 2019

Anyway, up until now the airline has charged $30-40 for inflight wifi. That pricing is somewhat steep, but also doesn’t seem terribly logical — you pay a very similar amount for wifi on a flight from Auckland to Sydney as you do on a flight from Auckland to Houston, for example, which doesn’t make much sense.

So there’s some significant news when it comes to wifi on Air New Zealand. Air New Zealand is now permanently offering wifi for free. That’s right, there are no strings attached — if the plane has wifi, it will be available for free. This isn’t just a limited texting service or anything, but rather free is the only option.

Now, of course free sounds great, though keep in mind that bandwidth is extremely limited on a plane, and you can expect that this will make Air New Zealand’s already slow wifi even slower.

Whether that’s a positive or negative depends on the type of consumer you are. If you’re someone who just wants to casually text during a flight, this is awesome news. If you’re someone looking to get work done as efficiently as possible, I’d say this is a negative development.

As inflight wifi technology improves over time, I imagine free wifi will become increasingly common. For example, Delta’s CEO has repeatedly said that wifi on the airline will eventually be free. What remains to be seen is the timeline for that, if there will still be a paid option, etc.

Installing wifi on planes is expensive, so it’s interesting to see the focus shift long term. Wifi is increasingly being installed as a point of differentiation in terms of the passenger experience, rather than something that airlines are hoping to make a direct profit on.

Where do you guys stand on this — without bandwidth being improved, are you happy to see wifi become free, or are you worried about what this means for speeds?

Comments

  1. Being based at ARN, I travel with SAS quite frequently. They offer wifi for free in Business Class, Premium Economy and for all Eurobonus Diamond and Gold Members. This seems to be roughly 40-50% of all passengers, resulting in suuuuuuuper sloooooow wifi. Would prefer if they just offered it in biz or for a fee…

  2. I think it’s a good call on their part. Even if it’s slow, it’s such a nice feature to have. On the long routes that they fly, it’s especially nice to be able to keep in touch with family that isn’t traveling with you.

  3. Interestingly enough, the Bonvoyages of the world still try to charge you for it… or give it to free to “members” only… or charge for “premium” WiFi (as other is not useful for anything more than single FB message).

    I would be very, very surprised if this gains any traction in the environment where charging for a carry-on purse is considered “normal” and is excellent way for airlines to make extra money while appearing cheap in online aggregators.

  4. Air NZ had been offering the free wifi for a while as a trial, I guess they found that decent speeds were still sustainable even with that many people using it

  5. having Wi-Fi access on the flight is an absolute privilege is because people like me virtually can’t live without being on the Internet almost all day. 🙂

  6. All it means tho is that ticket prices will go up and wifi speeds will go down because more people will connect. I suppose all airlines can offer free wifi but it will cause their prices to go up making them less competitive so thats probably how Air NZ can do it as they have little competition. At least with paid wifi ticket prices are lower and it segregates people who actually need wifi and those only using it because it’s there so speeds would be good.

  7. For several longhaul flights I took on Turkish from the US to Europe, the wifi has been free but painfully slow.

  8. Remember when you used to have to pay for wifi in a hotel? I don’t see this being so different. Once consumers start to expect it it will become standard.

  9. If the service is good enough to let me browse Reddit comments for hours (which isn’t a high bar at all) then that’s all I need to help the flight go by. It works great on JetBlue and would probably work great on a longer flight like this too.

  10. Just arrived in LAX on NZ flight from AKL. Inflight Wi-Fi was very good. The flight departed AKL after 11pm so many passengers had dinner and slept most of the way or watched movies so bandwidth for social media and email use was fine.

  11. Good news WiFi I’s now free the bad news is
    Starting April 1 Air NZ will start charging a 60 dollar per flight destination fee
    Early April Fools! 🙂

  12. Would much rather all airlines charge for the use of inflight wifi. Until inflight wifi is so fast that having 100+ users will still keep the speed at an acceptable level, it really should be provided on a needs basis (and you prove that you need it by paying).

  13. I couldn’t care less. I love not being connected when I am flying, so I am unlikely to use your precious bandwidth. I often work while flying long-haul, but I have plenty I can do without being bombarded with the 200-plus emails I get daily. Nothing better than switching on the “out of office” reply and being relieved of the duty to reply from the middle of the Pacific. (I also couldn’t care less about air vents at my seat either….the last thing I would use to judge an airline… 🙂 )

  14. Norwegian is certainly a long hall (and low cost) carrier with free Wi-Fi.
    In China China Eastern and Xiamen Airlines provide free Wi-Fi with practically no limit, and for China Eastern it’s available TPAC afaik
    ANA/JAL have free Wi-Fi on all domestic flights including to Okinawa, speed is actually adequate for live photo reporting.

  15. The airlines could do it if they want to. Some of the Chinese and other non-first tier airlines do offer free wifi.

  16. All of Air NZ’s major long-haul sectors except for LHR-LAX are overnight.

    So at any given time, probably only 20% of the passengers will be awake.

    And bandwidth should be fine.

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