Emirates pledges to offer free Wi-Fi on all flights
Airline president says Wi-Fi will be offered to all passengers for free
Emirates Airline aims to offer free Wi-Fi connectivity to all its passengers as soon as possible, the carrier's president Sir Tim Clark said on Tuesday.
In the first three years since Emirates launched inflight Wi-Fi connectivity, over half a million passengers have connected to the internet onboard and this demand is expected to increase exponentially.
Clark said: "If we can offer good quality Wi-Fi connections for everyone onboard at no charge tomorrow, we will do it. But we face a slew of technical limitations - from speed and bandwidth availability and cost, to the supporting hardware and software - all of which we are working hard to address with the industry right now."
He added: Ultimately, we believe that onboard Wi-Fi will become a free service, and a standard that customers will expect on a full service airline, just like onboard refreshments and personal inflight entertainment. Emirates is leading the way on this, and we are working closely with our suppliers and various stakeholders towards this vision."
Emirates said that it invests over $20 million annually on installing and operating inflight connectivity systems which enable onboard Wi-Fi services.
Onboard Wi-Fi is available on all of its 53 A380s and on 28 Boeing 777s, which serve routes across six continents. The airline also has an aggressive retrofit programme which will eventually see its entire fleet Wi-Fi enabled.
Emirates added that it is subsidising or waiving the high cost of buying data for passenger use.
Clark said: "It is a fact that our customers want onboard connectivity, and this demand is only going to increase as more people embrace an 'always-on' digital lifestyle, and carry smart mobile devices when they travel. We've always viewed Wi-Fi as a service and a value-added part of Emirates' overall product, rather than a revenue stream."
On most Emirates flights equipped with Wi-Fi, passengers enjoy the first 10MB of data for free with a $1 charge imposed for the next 600MB.
In October, Emirates saw a daily average of 3,500 passengers using onboard Wi-Fi, at an average of 28MB per user.
The highest number of Wi-Fi users on a single Emirates flight was recorded on an A380 with 153 passengers connecting, and the highest internet volume recorded on a single flight was nearly 8,000MB from 26 users onboard a Boeing 777 flight.
The airline saw a 200 percent spike in Wi-Fi usage in the month of October, due to a free Wi-Fi promotion to mark the Eid holidays.
According to the airline's data, the sites its passengers most frequently access onboard include Google, Facebook, and chat services Skype, WhatsApp and BBM.