airBaltic Installing Free Wi-Fi (SpaceX Starlink)

airBaltic Installing Free Wi-Fi (SpaceX Starlink)

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In early 2023, Latvia’s airBaltic announced plans to introduce free, high speed Wi-Fi throughout its fleet. We haven’t heard much more about this in the past year, so I wanted to provide an update, as there’s both good and bad news.

airBaltic plans inflight Wi-Fi as of late 2024

airBaltic plans to equip its entire Airbus A220-300 fleet with SpaceX’s Starlink internet connectivity system. Not only is it great that the Riga-based carrier is introducing Wi-Fi, but it will even be offered complimentary. Connectivity will be available gate-to-gate, with no login even required — you’ll just be able to connect to the network and start browsing.

Starlink provides high-speed, low-latency broadband internet in over 90 countries and counting, and started being offered on select commercial aircraft as of 2022. Because satellites are positioned in low-earth orbit at an altitude of 550km (over 65 times closer than conventional geostationary satellites), Starlink has significantly lower latency and higher transmission speeds for its end users.

Starlink can deliver up to 350 Mbps to aircraft, and with latency as low as 20 ms, passengers can use VPNs and engage in other high data usage activities.

Initially installation was supposed to start as of late 2023, though that timeline hasn’t stuck. The good news is that airBaltic has just carried out its first test with the new Starlink Wi-Fi on an Airbus A220. The bad news is that STC (supplemental type certification) approval is required, and that will take some time. airBaltic is now expecting to turn on Wi-Fi on its first A220 by the end of 2024.

We don’t yet know how long it will take for the entire fleet to have Wi-Fi, though presumably it’ll take at least a year (best case scenario).

Here’s how airBaltic CEO Martin Gauss describes this development:

“We are excited to lead the way in Europe by offering high-speed, unlimited, and complimentary inflight connectivity onboard our flights. This first test brings good insights and moves us closer to enhancing our service for passengers travelling within the airBaltic network in Europe and beyond.”

“We are grateful to our partners at SpaceX’s Starlink for their unwavering support throughout this transformative journey. Their shared ambition and dedication perfectly complement airBaltic’s values. As we operate one of the most modern aircraft types on the market, it was the next logical step for airBaltic to introduce the cutting-edge Starlink inflight internet solution onboard this fleet.”

airBaltic is introducing free inflight Wi-Fi

What an exciting development for airBaltic

airBaltic is such an impressive yet quirky airline that’s often overlooked. The company has an efficient fleet consisting exclusively of 46 Airbus A220s, with a further 34 of these planes on order. airBaltic was the launch customer for the A220, and is one of the world’s largest A220 operators.

The A220 provides a phenomenal passenger experience, thanks to the spacious cabin, 2-3 layout (so there’s only one middle seat per row), large lavatories, and generally modern feel. That already makes airBaltic one of the most pleasant airlines to fly within Europe.

Now if you add in free high-speed Wi-Fi, the airline will truly offer a differentiated experience, unlike what you’ll find on any other airline in Europe.

I am still curious about the economics, though. Intra-Europe is an incredibly competitive market in terms of pricing, so airBaltic can’t exactly get away with charging huge price premiums. The airline largely has a low cost model — for example, in economy food and drinks are available for purchase.

Free Wi-Fi for all passengers with no log-in requirements is incredible, but how will the airline justify the cost? Will ads somehow be integrated into this in a meaningful way (despite the promise of no log-in being required), or does the airline think it can achieve a revenue premium by offering this?

I suspect that in reality, the entire industry is moving toward eventually offering free Wi-Fi, and airBaltic is just leading the way. In the meantime, airlines like Air New Zealand, Hawaiian Airlines, and Qatar Airways, have similarly announced plans to introduce Starlink Wi-Fi.

airBaltic Airbus A220-300 cabin

Bottom line

airBaltic is taking its passenger experience to the next level, with the introduction of free Wi-Fi, currently scheduled for installation as of late 2024. The airline will be partnering with SpaceX Starlink. Free gate-to-gate Wi-Fi with no log-in even required sounds awesome to me. I’m just curious how the airline is making the economics work (or if there’s something we don’t know yet).

What do you make of airBaltic introducing Wi-Fi?

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  1. Tony Guest

    The last time an airline (Norwegian) offered free WiFi in Europe, they went bust. Just saying…

  2. polarbear Gold

    Always thought that login screens (besides data harvesting, of course) are needed so that user can agree to EULA

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Tony Guest

The last time an airline (Norwegian) offered free WiFi in Europe, they went bust. Just saying…

0
polarbear Gold

Always thought that login screens (besides data harvesting, of course) are needed so that user can agree to EULA

0
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