Ouch: Emirates Cuts Free Inflight Wifi, Live TV

Filed Under: Emirates

With airlines around the world fighting for survival, one big question has revolved around what kind of cost cutting we should expect from the passenger experience.

Airlines have invested a lot in recent years, so is all of that innovation and investment going out the window? It would appear the answer may very well be yes…

Emirates cuts free inflight wifi

Emirates is known for being one of the most full service airlines in the world, and historically the airline has offered free wifi to many passengers:

  • All passengers received 20MB of free wifi throughout the flight
  • First class passengers, business class passengers, and Skywards Platinum & Gold members received unlimited free wifi throughout the flight

While Emirates hasn’t even resumed regularly scheduled operations yet, the airline is already making cuts to the onboard experience. Emirates has now updated their website to reflect that they’re no longer offering free wifi. Rather for all passengers the wifi pricing and packages that are available vary by route.

For what it’s worth, the last time I flew Emirates the pricing beyond the first 20MB for economy passengers cost $9.99-15.99, for packages of 150-500MB.

Emirates wifi was never great, but this is big

Emirates offers OnAir wifi on most planes, which is incredibly slow. Given the limited bandwidth, at times I’ve almost wished they didn’t offer free wifi, because clearly they don’t have the capacity to offer it. I’d even go so far as to say that wifi has been a weak point of the Emirates experience, and this might not actually be bad news for those who value semi-usable wifi.

Even so, I think this is really significant news. We’ve largely been wondering what the future of the onboard experience would look like. Here we have Emirates, one of the most well run and full service airlines in the world, and they’re cutting wifi before their planes are even back operating regularly scheduled flights.

Unfortunately I think this is pretty reflective of a wider industry trend we’ll see.

Live Tweeting from the Emirates onboard bar will now cost you!

Emirates also cuts live TV

Emirates’ ICE system is literally the best inflight entertainment system in the world, with a massive library of TV shows and movies, as well as live TV. Well, it would appear that live TV on Emirates is a thing of the past.

Emirates has an incredible entertainment system

Emirates used to have a webpage dedicated to live TV, which you’ll even still find when doing a Google search.

But when you follow that link you’ll see that the webpage has been taken down.

Even the page dedicated to inflight entertainment no longer lists live TV.

Emirates is going to have to redo their Emirates ICE video that they play at the beginning of every flight. And ugh, watching the below video makes me want to fly Emirates so much.

Emirates statement on service cuts

Emirates has issued the following statement regarding these developments:

“This pandemic has disrupted many business models, including for airlines and satellite and data providers. When Emirates was flying a full fleet we were able to purchase data in bulk, which made offering a free WiFi service feasible even though the airline still subsidised the service with millions of dollars every year.

Live TV was hugely popular on Emirates’ ice, with sport being the greatest attraction. The service comes with significant data and licensing costs, but we invested in it as part of overall our inflight customer experience. With fewer global sporting events at the moment, LiveTV has much reduced value. Our customers can keep up to date with the news headlines either via their mobile phone data roaming or via a WiFi package. Like all airlines, we’ve had to adapt our inflight offering to the current situation, but we are monitoring developments closely and look forward to resuming these popular services when practicable.”

Bottom line

If Emirates is cutting costs in this way I unfortunately don’t have much faith for the rest of the industry when it comes to the onboard experience.

When this pandemic first started I assumed that the airlines that cared about the onboard experience would keep investing in that, while the airlines that didn’t care much about the onboard experience wouldn’t. However, at the time most of us didn’t appreciate just how bad the situation would get, and how long the recovery would take.

At this point I think the industry might be going back about a decade in time in terms of the passenger experience and soft product — while we’ll still have great seats in premium cabins, expect cost cutting with just about everything else.

I’d be surprised if many US airlines continue to offer cookies or pretzels in economy, if Delta continues offering their elevated international economy experience, if American continues to operate Flagship First Dining, etc.

What do you think — will we see big cuts to airline soft products, or is this all very temporary?

(Tip of the hat to @JTGenter)

  1. That’s the cost of reality. Internet isn’t cheap and data / satellite traffic is costly. The only way to be “cost” efficient was to scale big

    Everyone kept praising the benefits of economics of scale. But everything has downsides and everyone just ignored and disregarded the negatives of high density scaling

    We need a world of quality not quantity. But business are only keen on $$$ and not what’s best for the world or humanity, so it’ll be short term and things will be back to norm until another pandemic

  2. This is the end of the golden age of flying, especially for the ME carriers as more planes can fly intercontinental directly.
    And with Clark saying the a380 is over, fleets of a350 and 787 without first class is Emirates future.

  3. As you said the wifi was never that good nor reliable as for the TV that too had its issues, frankly when one thinks about it, it’s suppose to be an adventure not watching the same shows/news you did before leaving. Having flown EK a number of times in he past the flights are long and sometimes boring their ICE makes it a lot easier.

    Is it a sign of the future, not sure equally not sure ” things will return to normal” either. I think one would have to define “normal”, certainly the plane should be much cleaner but then I think my hot towel will still be used to clean my table/armrest !

  4. The one airline that seems to be cutting nothing at all from the inflight experience is QR. EY has been cutting for years, and EK has joined it now.

  5. EK is cost cutting to no end in Y, just that lucky doesn’t realise it because he hasn’t flown them at the class. Furthermore their J isn’t class leading at all, no dine on demand, sub par bedding, 7 seats a row in the 777s not to mention the usually sub par food, what’s to like.

  6. they will continue cutting expenses to survive, next probably are the LOUNGES, with reduced business flyers and high maintenance cost, cleaning and social distance as well as limited food they will be able to offer, no more buffet kind of services, probably that will be the next to dissapear or scale down.

  7. I want to know what United has planned for its Polaris lounges. They were the first to be shut down. I hope they reopen, even with limited services they are quite pleasant lounges.

  8. Hi
    You mentioned free internet for Business and First passengers. Unsure if that has ever been the case ? Flown both exclusively since 2010 and never been offered anything other than the same 20mb the economy section got.

  9. The Domino-Effect is starting to roll…
    Over the last couple days European nations have started to announce border openings, it will only take a few weeks till most bans are lifted again. All the smaller countries without specialized medical research knowledge will simply follow the EU guidance.
    I predict the first step of openings taking place till mid June and by end of July most borders worldwide will be open again.

  10. JW there are plenty of airlines that don’t offer dine on demand in business class not just EK

  11. Emirates business class seats are far from great. American dining was so retricted it was pointless having it.

  12. I just read someone mention that most international borders will be open by June – I dont know where you’re from but you must be living in an alternate universe – not this year at all !!!!

  13. Yes, expect to see big cuts wherever the airlines can, and for as long as they can get away with it! Of course the American airlines haven’t too many places to go, as they have already cut back the experience to miserable.
    I expect we will see F slashed even more, as the aircraft with that service are retired, and the replacements only going as far as Business.
    There will need to be concerted customer pushback before things get back to even near ‘normal’.

  14. Hopefully we will see some competition soon. Lots of good metal with lots of life in them parked out in the desert. As for the goodies in steerage, I am sure it will be almost non-existent for a few years.

  15. OneWeb Global declared bankruptcy in March and has cut employment by 90%.

    Softbank owed 903 mil.

  16. I guess all airlines will try to cut the costs as much as possible. Not sure how business and first class will look like now ( I tried to find out with BA, Lufthansa and Swiss – but got no answer at all or rude answer ) – with lounges closed and pre ordered ( boxed ) meals served – it doesn’t look promising. At least till 2021 ( if we are lucky ). I have currently 3 tickets in first with Lufthansa ( Sept/Oct/Nov ) but will try to rebook to 2021 or get refund ( if flight cancelled ). No need to travel in “first” if can’t get proper service, right? seat is not enough

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