Hawaiian Airlines will offer fast, free in-flight WiFi on its long-haul flights from 2023. The carrier announced a deal with Starlink to deliver the internet connectivity service on its A330, A321neo, and 787 aircraft.
When we launch with Starlink we will have the best connectivity experience available in the air.– Hawaiian Airlines President and CEO Peter Ingram
Much like last week’s announcement with regional carrier JSX, the Starlink service on board Hawaiian will be frictionless and free. The companies will not put a registration page or capture portal between passengers and the connection.
As SpaceX Vice President of Starlink Commercial Sales Jonathan Hofeller explains, “With Starlink, the inflight experience is greatly simplified so that once passengers step onboard the plane the internet works seamlessly throughout their flight. Soon, passengers will enjoy all the benefits of having the world’s best inflight internet connectivity from the comfort of their seats.”
Hawaiian Airlines somewhat notoriously held off on picking an in-flight connectivity solution well after most of its competitors began delivering in-flight internet to passengers. The company held that no service provider was able to deliver the capacity and coverage its passengers required. Given the minimal satellite coverage and capacity across the Pacific, that claim is not hard to believe.
Now, however, Hawaiian Airlines President and CEO Peter Ingram believes the service is ready to deliver. “We waited until technology caught up with our high standards for guest experience, but it will be worth the wait,” Ingram offers. “Our guests can look forward to fast, seamless and free Wi-Fi to complement our award-winning onboard Hawaiian hospitality.
Read More: JSX selects Starlink for in-flight WiFi
The move is something of a win for Starlink, as well, in that it will put to use the otherwise wasted capacity from satellites passing over oceans. The service will rely on the more recent model of Starlink satellites and their laser inter-satellite links (ISLs) to relay data from the plane to earth and back. A satellite with coverage over the middle of the Pacific Ocean cannot see a ground station to pass on that data. Instead, it will use a mesh network between other Starlink satellites, passing the data along until it gets to one that can see a ground station. The same process repeats in the opposite direction to deliver data back to the aircraft.
The ISLs are relatively new to Starlink satellites, but the company expects that by early 2023 it will have enough in orbit to deliver coverage to Hawaiian’s route map across the Pacific. ISLs are not a revolutionary concept; Iridium uses them for similar mesh networking among its NEXT constellation. The Iridium links are Ka-band radio, however, and Starlink uses lasers.
Starlink must still deliver a certified antenna and terminal solution to being the connectivity online. Hofeller is confident that SpaceX and Starlink can deliver. At the Satellite 2022 conference in mid-March he noted that testing was ongoing, both on commercial aircraft and company planes. Both JSX and Hawaiian acknowledge the work is in “initial stages of implementation.” JSX plans hardware activation later this year, while Hawaiian plans for a 2023 installation timeline.
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