Wifi On British Airways: What You Need To Know

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)

Bottom line

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?

Comments

  1. “I had issues with that, and could only access it when specifically typing in the URL shop.ba.com”

    I had the same issue on my mobile device. It seemed to work better on my Surface.

    I actually didn’t realize BA had Wifi at all, so it was a pleasant surprise on my day flight LHR-PHL a few weeks back.

  2. ” $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”

    Just wondering, is the ~6-8 hour flight (depending on the direction) between New York and London considered Long Haul? About what flight time is a flight considered to be long haul?

  3. I took my parents to Naples in Florida (it’s great I recommend visiting it) we flew Club World on the 747 from Heathrow to Miami. We got back home to London on Saturday morning and both of my flights didn’t have WiFi. Still I’m looking forward to getting it on more flights as 7 or 8 times out of 10 I fly BA and I really hope that they will turn around one day and make my gold card worth it

  4. You might get wifi on your flight — or you might not. And there’s no simple and easy way to tell from their website or the booking information. How quintessentially British Airways. The masochist’s favourite way to fly.

  5. British Airways sucks. I think all their pilots are on twitter being total douches. Some a380 pilot Dave, some 747 douse Scott, some chick diuche Johanna. I swear every one of them is on twitter.

  6. I feel I’m in the Minority these days but I still love to be on a long haul flight knowing there is no way to be contacted in the sky!

  7. I much preferred when there was no connectivity on ‘planes.
    I disconnect, partly for a break, and partly because the speeds are still usually frustratingly slow.

    Now there is pressure from employers/clients to respond even when flying.
    More stress.

  8. This information does not match what BA say they have in the fleet.
    The two erros are that BA say they have 36 planes which are 747-400 and 46 planes which are 777-200. This is taken by me on the BA websiteunder fleet facts menue.

  9. “British Airways wifi only works when flying above 10,000 feet, so it’s not gate-to-gate”

    It should theoretically be gate-to-gate since the WiFi is satellite-based, not Air to Ground.

  10. In response to Joe and Eponymous Coward, when it says 14 out of 17 747s have been fitted on the BA page the latter number is the total that will be fitted. None of the mid-J planes are getting wifi (there are 16 of those) and one of the super hi-J planes won’t be getting it fitted. This is mainly due to the fact these planes are being retired soon, although BA’s 747 retirement plan keeps changing.
    It’s the same with the 777s.
    Regarding the 787s, fitting was rumoured to be starting in September this year but it appears the aircraft that have been in maintenance since then haven’t been done yet.
    One final point – the article states BA’s shorthaul planes haven’t been fitted yet. Most have, but the European Aviation Network system they’ll be using still hasn’t gone live due to various legal battles. Once that goes live (it was supposed to be by the end of 2017, then June 2018, now ‘sometime this year’) the vast majority of shorthaul planes will have connectivity but again, some won’t be getting it as they’re being retired shortly.

  11. Lucky wrote, “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)”.

    Considering how well BA has been doing to protect their customers’ data, it is not surprising that the way they process credit cards is screwed up.

  12. Most of BA A321 have wifi. I had an opportunity to get inside the hangar last year september and they already had 3 planes with wifi installed and they were installing it on the 4th. Its just not activated for some reason

  13. @Russell:

    So Lucky is wrong when he says your best chance is on a 747, he means “a hi-J 747, which are predominantly on routes like NY-LON”?

    I’m flying a mid-J next year in BA J+, I mean F, so I shall keep my expectations low (since it is likely to also have an old Rockwell Collins IFE as well as no WiFi and be a beater- it’s LHR-LAS so I don’t imagine they’ll use the good stuff, I don’t even get T5).

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