My First Shorthaul Lufthansa Flight With Wifi: I Have Mixed Feelings

Filed Under: Lufthansa, Travel Technology

This is turning to inflight Wi-Fi day here at OMAAT, quite unintentionally. Earlier I wrote about how Lufthansa has started offering free Wi-Fi in first class, then I wrote about how Etihad has started offering free Wi-Fi in first class. Now I’m having another Wi-Fi “first,” and I’m digging it… mostly.

Early last year Lufthansa announced that they’d begin offering Wi-Fi on their short-haul A320 aircraft. I’m so excited to see some airlines finally introducing Wi-Fi on flights within Europe. Intra-Europe flights are probably my least favorite flights anywhere in the world — there’s typically no entertainment, legroom is often horrible, Wi-Fi isn’t yet a standard feature, and there’s not even a proper premium cabin you can book to avoid the bad experience.

Wifi on intra-Europe flights isn’t just great for the purpose of staying productive, but also for the purpose of entertaining yourself and making the flight pass more quickly.

I just flew a Lufthansa A320 from Munich to London, which is the first intra-Europe flight I’ve ever taken with Wi-Fi (at least as far as I can remember). I couldn’t help but chuckle when I saw that they painted the plane in the “5 Starhansa” livery to celebrate their Skytrax 5-star rating. There is literally nothing five star about an intra-Europe flight on Lufthansa.

Business class was the usual lame product, with a blocked middle seat.

I was seated in the bulkhead row this time, which I don’t think I’ve done in the past. That turned out to be a really good choice, as the legroom in the bulkhead is significantly better than in other rows, and the tray table is larger and sturdier (so I can use my laptop on it without being concerned about whether I’m disturbing the person in front of me).

I was thrilled when I discovered that the plane had FlyNet Wi-Fi.

What was the pricing like for this 90 minute flight? There were three packages to choose from, and it’s my understanding that the pricing and concepts are standardized regardless of which short-haul flight you take. Interestingly none of these packages have data caps, but rather they charge based on how you intend to use it. You can:

  • Pay 3EUR for FlyNet Message, which is best suited for messaging & email services on smartphones and tablets
  • Pay 7EUR for FlyNet Surf, which is best suited for web browsing, including VPNs
  • Pay 12EUR for FlyNet Stream, which is best suited for audio & video streaming devices

I sprung for the premium package to see just how good the speeds were. Let me say that I’m not at all a tech person, so when I describe my experience with Wi-Fi I usually do a terrible job. So here’s a speed test with what I experienced:

That’s the data, which I’m sure tells you more about my experience than I can put into words. Based on what I’m told those should be good speeds (at least the download, not so much the ping), though I wasn’t impressed. I figured this would be similar to Gogo 2Ku or the new Wi-Fi that Singapore Airlines has on their A380s, which is almost as fast as you’d find on the ground.

That’s not what I experienced, though:

  • After logging in and activating the Wi-Fi, it took over five minutes for the first page to load, which is pretty significant on such a short flight
  • Saving a blog post in WordPress took over two minutes (and it wasn’t even a post with a lot of words or pictures)
  • Since this is supposedly perfect for video streaming, I decided to load YouTube, which took nearly five minutes; however, once that loaded I could access individual videos quickly, and they all streamed just fine

For my purposes I wasn’t as impressed as I was hoping to be. I found the speeds to be roughly on par with non-2Ku Gogo Wi-Fi. I guess next time I’d try the FlyNet Surf for 7EUR, since I can’t imagine the difference will be significant for my purposes.

Even though the Wi-Fi didn’t perform quite as well as I had hoped, I was thrilled that it was available, There aren’t any flights that are more in need of entertainment than intra-Europe flights, so being able to work or message on an intra-Europe flight is awesome.

Have you been on a Lufthansa A320 with Wi-Fi? What was your experience like?

  1. @Lucky – When you do a review of a flight, how about you include a speed test of the wifi (If you buy it).

  2. Ben, I am a reader of your blog who is blind. I am writing to tell you that, if you just put a screenshot of your speeds (which I suspect you did in this post), the software I use on my computer that reads aloud the text in your posts cannot read the content of a picture. I ask you to either just put the results in text, or to include both as this would make your content more accessible to people who are blind and visually impaired.

  3. Given Lufthansas high fares on domestic routes, the prices for the wifi are by far too high. German railways are not really slower on most routes (even on some international routes) have a real first class, are much cheaper and Wifi with inflight entertainment is free of charge. Lufthansa is no more an option on my business trips.

  4. Those speeds are perfectly fine, it’s the ping (packet turnaround time, i.e. responsiveness) that makes this a bummer. If you had a supersonic jet that needed a 8-hour turnaround time on the ground, a transatlantic flight wouldn’t be any faster than what we have now, except the time would be spent differently. That also explains the video situation: it takes a while for your browser to fetch the many needed assets from the server (especially when each one is requested and transferred separately), though once a stream is established, ping no longer matters that much and speeds appear to be fine.

    Anyway, there’s one European airline that offers (decent) inflight wi-fi, FOR FREE: Norwegian!

  5. Happy to see that you’ve taken my advice to start using netspeed tests to give us numbers! šŸ™‚

  6. Three or four months ago, China Airlines had free Wi-Fi for premium business class passengers on their 777 and 350 long haul flights. They might offer it once more in the future.

  7. Icelandair has free wifi with a decent speed on all its planes now, I think (not to mention real business class seats)

  8. I agree with Juraj, speeds are decent enough for a wifi during the flight, but PING is horrible. Test it on the ground, at home, in restaurant or other public place and you will see the difference.

  9. Once again, I don’t understand LH’s business model. Most of their shorthaul flights are really short (below 90mins in the air) and I think most people can still survive without wifi for 90mins. WiFi is way more important on medium- and longhaul flights – and their roll out there is still far from complete …

    Also, given that many pax use their ultra-short flights in order to connect to/from longer flights, I don’t understand why they don’t offer a 24h subscription, valid on all flights within that time window? Many other airlines make such an offer.

  10. @Mark Chataway

    Icelandair business seats are not fit for purpose for long haul flights. They use the same seat whether they fly to England or the US…

  11. Unfortunately you didnā€™t have a good day on their Intra-Europe WiFi, Iā€™ve had it about 10 times now and all except once itā€™s been excellent – very fast (seemingly faster than their long haul FlyNet, which I also like) and reliable. Hopefully next time youā€™ll have a better experience.

  12. Emirates is offering a free service on all classes now, only 20Mb I understand which doesn’t go far šŸ™‚ but it’s good to for messaging etc. Has anyone tried services from iPass, GoGo or CPH Travel WiFi ? They seem to be more of an aggregator of multiple inflight providers so you buy one pass from them and it gives you access to multiple airlines. That would be an ideal service for me as I’m a frequent flyer on different airlines and different routes. Any help / insights would be much appreciated. Thanks

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