Japanese long-haul airline Zipair plans to fit its fleet with inflight internet from Starlink. The company announced it would become the first Asian airline to offer the service, fitting out its 787s.
We are committed to pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in air travel and are excited to be a part of that future. We believe that our work with SpaceX is very important to increase the speed of in-flight Internet communications and achieve a new standard in the industry.– ZIPAIR President Shingo Nishida
Zipair will offer the service for free on board, just like all the other Starlink implementations announced to date. For a low cost carrier that otherwise seems keen to charge for ancillary services on board, giving away the WiFi service seems something of a strange choice. But the company sees it as well-aligned with the broader business model.
Zipair spokesperson Kojiro Ito explains, “At home, passengers connect to Wi-Fi and buy whatever they want or watch movies whenever they want. We are doing the same on the plane, making the in-flight internet free, while also allowing them to order and buy food, drinks and other in-flight sales and watch movies on their smartphones.”
Whether the on-board shopping is enough to make up for the cost of providing free wifi to all passengers remains to be seen. But Zipair chose the free option when it launched service with Panasonic Avionics, and it will keep that model as it shifts to the Starlink solution.
Presumably the decision to fit the planes with Starlink would also entail removal of the existing Panasonic Avionics gear on board. The company appears undecided, however, on whether that will happen. Ito notes, “[W]e are currently using Panasonic avionics Internet. As for whether to remove their system, nothing has been decided yet.” This leaves open the possibility that the SpaceX installations are only for new aircraft joining the fleet rather than a full retrofit.
Exact timing of the implementation remains unclear. The companies are working through the regulatory and engineering requirements for the service. Presumably they could benefit from efforts already underway to equip the Hawaiian Airlines 787s, though details on that program’s progress are also unclear.
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