Earlier today I flew British Airways from London to New York, and my flight had wifi. This was my first ever British Airways flight with wifi, so I figured I’d report back on my experience.
How many British Airways planes have wifi?
British Airways initially announced that they’d install wifi in 2016, with a target completion date in 2019. While they were a bit delayed with getting started on activating wifi, the pace with which they’ve installed wifi has been extremely impressive.
British Airways’ wifi webpage lists how many planes feature wifi as of now:
- 14 of 17 Boeing 747-400s (out of a total of 36) have wifi
- 28 of 43 Boeing 777-200s (out of a total of 46) have wifi
- 6 out of 12 Boeing 777-300s (out of a total of 12) have wifi
- 2 of 12 Airbus A380s (out of a total of 12) have wifi
You may notice the different numbers I list above. British Airways won’t be installing wifi on all longhaul aircraft, since some will be retired sooner rather than later. For example, British Airways has installed wifi on 14 of the 17 747s that will get wifi, while there are a total of 36 (meaning that 19 won’t get wifi).
Overall I’d say their progress is impressive when you consider that the bulk of these 50 planes have had wifi installed within the past year or so. Well done!
Shorthaul aircraft will also eventually get wifi, though none of them are equipped with wifi yet.
How can I tell if my British Airways flight will have wifi?
There’s no way to know for sure in advance if your flight will have wifi or not, assuming you’re on an aircraft type where at least some of the fleet has wifi. For example, none of the 787s have wifi, so if you’re on a 787 you know you won’t have it. As a percentage of a given fleet with wifi, your best odds are on the 777-200, followed by the 777-300, followed by the 747, followed the A380.
But there is potentially a way to tell within a couple of days of departure if your flight is likely to feature wifi. On their website, British Airways lists the registration codes of all the planes that have wifi within each fleet.
While you won’t know which registration code operates which flight way in advance, British Airways typically assigns a tail number a couple of days in advance.
So you can go to Flightradar24 and enter your flight number. For example, I took BA117 today, so let’s look at that. It doesn’t list the anticipated registration code for tomorrow, but it does list it for Friday.
For Friday the flight will be operated by G-CIVW. When you cross reference that with the BA wifi page, you’ll see that the plane with that registration does have wifi.
Keep in mind that plane assignments are always subject to change due to operational reasons.
How much does British Airways charge for wifi?
British Airways charges for wifi based on time rather than data usage, which I really appreciate, since the cost of the latter concept adds up.
You can purchase either a “Browse” or “Stream” package, and the pricing varies based on whether you want to buy a package for one hour, four hours, or the entire flight.
For the “Browse” package (described as being for basic web browsing), pricing is as follows:
- 1 hour: 4.99GBP
- 4 hours: 10.99GBP
- Full flight: 14.99GBP
Then for the “Stream” package (described as being for high-speed web browsing and video streaming), pricing is as follows:
- 1 hour: 7.99GBP
- 4 hours: 17.99GBP
- Full flight: 23.99GBP
It’s interesting that you can also elect to be billed in USD or EUR, and there might be a slight price difference if doing that. For example, a full flight “Stream” package costs 30USD or 23.99GBP, and with today’s conversion rate, the 30USD rate is slightly cheaper.
While this isn’t among the cheapest inflight wifi out there (some airlines charge ~$20 for unlimited data on a flight), it’s not unreasonable either, and is much better than any airline that charges based on data usage.
Lastly, while some other airlines offer first or business class passengers free wifi, British Airways charges all passengers for wifi.
What are wifi speeds on British Airways like?
British Airways says that the “Browse” package should get you a minimum of 250kbps, while the “Stream” package should get you a minimum of 0.66Mbps. In my opinion it’s a bit of a stretch to call the latter “high-speed browsing,” but…
So, how were speeds on my flight? Let’s keep in mind that this was a daytime London to New York flight, which I imagine is probably about the highest wifi utilization rate you’ll find on any route.
Wifi speeds ranged from really, really, really awful…
…to just pretty bad (but then again, we’re talking about using the internet while flying 600 miles per hour through the sky, so I’m forgiving there). 😉
I’d say the speeds felt on part with what you’d find on a domestic Gogo flight that’s not 2Ku equipped.
More tips for using British Airways inflight wifi
Some of this is probably obvious, and some of it less obvious:
- British Airways wifi only works when flying above 10,000 feet, so it’s not gate-to-gate
- With most wifi systems, browsers will automatically redirect you to the portal homepage, though I had issues with that, and could only access it when specifically typing in the URL shop.ba.com
- If you purchase internet, it’s linked to one specific device, so you can’t switch between devices on a single flight
- You can choose to purchase wifi as a guest (meaning you just enter your name and credit card details), or you can register an account, and then it can save your info for a future flight
- I had huge issues connecting to the internet at first because I kept submitting my payment info, but it never went through, but there was never an error message; it was only later in the flight that I realized the wifi purchase triggered a fraud alert on my credit card, so using a different credit card did the trick (interestingly when I called Chase they said this was caused from entering the wrong zip code, yet at no point in the process of purchasing wifi was I asked to enter an address or zip code, which makes me think this may be a common issue)
While British Airways’ inflight wifi isn’t the cheapest or fastest in the sky, I’m thrilled to see how many of their longhaul aircraft already feature it. $30 is a price I’m willing to pay for unlimited wifi on a longhaul flight, and to me it greatly enhances the value of flying British Airways across the pond, since this was previously one of the things that largely kept me off of them, especially on daytime flights.
Have you used British Airways’ inflight wifi? What was your experience like?