Emirates Offering Free Wifi On A380 & 777

Back in the day I was resistant to inflight wifi. Since I’m not the type that can voluntarily disconnect, the time I spent flying was about the only time I ever relaxed. And I wanted to keep it that way. Except I also started to realize that I became stressed on flights because while I was “relaxing,” hours and hours of work was piling up.

I guess at some point I just had an epiphany that onboard wifi is amazing, as there’s nothing better than landing at your destination with most of your work done, so you can enjoy your time on the ground. And for that matter, work is a lot more fun when you can do it while enjoying your preferred champagne. 😉

Etihad-Wifi
Non-sucky office!

In the meantime I actually sort of choose flights around wifi. While it’s largely a given on domestic flights nowadays, on international flights it’s still not that widespread.

The cost of onboard wifi can vary significantly

The other thing is that the cost of onboard wifi can vary massively by airline. Airlines generally either let you buy a 24 hour pass with unlimited data, or they’ll charge you based on usage.

I obviously far prefer the former, which is the system that Etihad and Lufthansa use, for example. ~$20USD for wifi on a longhaul flight without data limits is a steal.

But even among airlines that charge based on usage, the cost can vary substantially. And that’s even true among airlines that use the same provider. For example, Emirates and Singapore both use OnAir for their wifi. Singapore Airlines charges you $10 for 10MB of data:

Singapore-Wifi-Cost

Meanwhile, Emirates has historically charged you $20 for 100MB of data:

Emirates-Wifi-Cost

So Singapore charges five times as much as Emirates, and charges you double the overage as well.

For example, on my Singapore Airlines flight from Frankfurt to New York in August, I spent $41 just to send out a couple of Tweets, read a couple of emails, and try (unsuccessfully) to upload pictures to Instagram.

Singapore-Airlines-Inflight-Wifi-4

Emirates is now offering free wifi

Australian Business Traveller notes that Emirates is now offering free wifi on all Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 aircraft equipped with the OnAir service:

  • Each passenger gets 10MB of data for free
  • An additional 600MB can be purchased for $1
  • If you exceed that limit, you can purchase yet another 600MB for $1

All of Emirates A380s feature wifi, while only some of Emirates’ longhaul 777s do.

Australian Business Traveller notes that long term apparently Emirates plans to offer free wifi throughout the fleet, as they don’t view it as a revenue stream but rather a value-added product offering:

And Emirates isn’t stopping there, with the airline promising “to eventually enable passengers to have unlimited free access to Wi-Fi” at 35,000 feet.

“We’ve always viewed Wi-Fi as a service and a value-added part of Emirates’ overall product, rather than a revenue stream,” said Sir Tim Clark, President of Emirates.

“Ultimately, we believe that on-board Wi-Fi will become a free service, and a standard that customers will expect on a full service airline, just like on-board refreshments and personal inflight entertainment.”

I have a couple of upcoming Emirates flights, so this is especially timely. I think Emirates is spot on with their approach to onboard wifi, and as long as it doesn’t slow the system down much further, it’s great news.

I really don’t get their pricing strategy, though. Why are they bothering to charge $1 for 600MB? Is it to keep the speeds up slightly for people that are too cheap to pay even $1 for wifi, or what? That just kind of feels like a promotion McDonald’s would run, and not Emirates.

What am I missing?

Bottom line

I love onboard wifi, and I don’t think there’s an airline that’s more “onboard” with onboard wifi than Emirates in terms of their long term business plan. It’s nice to see an airline that views onboard wifi as a value-added part of the overall product, and not as a revenue stream.

How do you feel about onboard wifi, and does the availability of it ever impact your airline choice?

Comments

  1. How was the wifi speed on your flight today in comparison to the August one SQ? I wouldn’t mind paying if the connection was decent, but I would be quite peeved if my experience was what you had in August.

  2. Emirates WiFi has worked properly for me on maybe 10% of the flights its been “offered” on over the last few years (and my sample size is probably 30+ flights). I’ve had more credit card disputes for this in the last couple of years than all other merchants put together. Maybe they just got sick of the chargebacks because I can’t imagine I’m the only one with this problem.

  3. Hi Lucky – What’s the fastest way to get Alaska Miles? You mentioned that’s what you used to fly Emirates with your dad, which would be 200,000 miles. I know that’s a lot since you can only get 25k miles per credit card sign up. Is there any other way to rank up those miles fast?

  4. @JC SPG transfers to Alaska. Every 20k transferred gets a 5K bonus. Also sometimes Alaska sells points with a bonus so look out for those if you need some extra miles.

  5. @ JC — Well I also actually fly Alaska a lot, so that’s how I earn most of my miles with them. That being said:
    — They’re transfer partners with Starwood
    — Their credit card is churnable
    — They frequently sell miles for a little over two cents each, and when they do there’s no limit to how many miles you can buy

  6. @ Kevin — It was faster last night, fortunately. Still not amazing, but at least I could upload a picture to Instagram without it failing 20 times first.

  7. @JC You should also look at the Diners Club cards. The top tier card is not cheap at $300 a year, but if you spend a lot at, say, grocery stores at 3x points, you could make out well very quickly. Points transfer 1 to 1 to Alaska miles.
    If you have more money but less time, buy the miles when there’s a 30-40% bonus. Still not cheap, but it works out to about two grand for a one way first class Emirates ticket from USA to just about anywhere.
    One other fairly quick way to get miles is to use the shopping portal. Check into Mileage Plan Shopping. They often have bonuses for stores that you would use anyway. I’ve gotten about 100,000 miles in the last year through portals.

  8. Just completed 4 segments on EK with the free wifi being offered on 3 flights. There is a code to use FREE10 to actually get this offer. The cabin crew does make an announcement about the offer after take off but I don’t think many people actually heard about the offer. Connection was slow but stable, enough for my BlackBerry.

  9. That being said, I really think that Free Wifi should be a standard product offered by the airlines to First & Business class passengers …

  10. I’m not sure how I feel about this. I’m sure this will cause slower surfing speed. I’d rather pay knowing I will have decent browsing speeds. I agree with Lucky thought, SQ’s wifi product is practically unusable.

  11. @Kevin The fact is SQ A380 WIFI sucks, the 77W one is OK. In short 380 system is data based while 77W is time based.

  12. Just had an Emirates flight yesterday (Dubai-Cairo) on a 777.
    It’s realy nice to be connected while in flight.
    Price was $1 for 500MB of data, and $0.00 for any additional KB, so it is $1 for unlimited internet for the whole flight.
    Speed was not the best, but enough for some browsing and social networking.
    I made a speedtest and got around 2.5Mb download, and 0.4Mb upload speed, but of course it depends on how many are using it on the same time.

  13. They advertise “wifi available on select Boeing 777s” without saying which ones. I’m flying direct from Christchurch to London late May and can’t find whether I can charge my tablet or not

  14. Hey. Please how do you pay for the extra 600mb?? I am flying with Emirates next month and my aircraft will have WiFi. Do I pay using a card? I’m from Nigeria so how will be able to pay in dollars?

  15. I travelled from Dallas to Dubai on the A380 jet. The internet was okay. Not the fastest but fast enough to go on facebook and whatsapp. On my return flight from Dubai to Chicago the internet was also okay.

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