China Eastern’s Convoluted Onboard Wifi Registration Process

I value inflight wifi immensely, and there’s no denying that there’s a huge variance in quality and pricing across airlines.

Airlines like American, Etihad, Lufthansa, etc., charge a fixed amount for wifi for the duration of the flight, and you can use as much data as you’d like. Meanwhile airlines like Singapore Airlines charge based on usage, and it can get crazy expensive.

Etihad-A380-First-Class - 49

Nonetheless, at least most airlines make it easy for you to give them your money for wifi (as they should)… well, except for China Eastern.

I’ll soon be trying China Eastern’s longhaul business class product between Los Angeles and Shanghai, which is operated by one of their new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. It looks like a solid reverse herringbone product, which I’m excited about.

I’m also grateful that they have onboard wifi, since I’m flying them on a weekday during business hours. That’s pretty noteworthy for a mainland Chinese airline, given that historically China has blocked inflight wifi.

However, China Eastern may have the most convoluted system I’ve ever seen for accessing onboard wifi, as you need to register for wifi before you even get on the plane.

You’ll have to go to this page of China Eastern’s website, where you’ll be prompted to enter your ticket number, name, and a security code.

China-Eastern-Wifi

Then you’ll have to “apply” for wifi on your flight.

China-Eastern-Wifi-2

This comes with the following terms:

1. From now on, passengers will be entitled to the 258 yuan-worth of free experience of the inflight Wi-Fi service on China Eastern Airlines flights (see the table below for flights available for the service) if they have successfully purchased the air tickets for those flights. You can apply for the free trial on the official website of China Eastern Airlines.
2. The complimentary Wi-Fi trail service is on the first come first served basis. So please hurry up as this complimentary experience is for the travel within 30 days and up to 50 passengers per flight.
3. Subject offer may be unavailable in case of some unforeseen circumstances such as maintenance issues or system upgrades. Please check for the most updated information prior to your booked flights on trans-pacific route.
4. On board WIFI is available to wireless-enabled facilities, such as laptops, tablets, and smart phones. With the capability of browsing the Internet, instant communication and e-mail services (no voice call service is provided yet).
5. The inflight Wi-Fi service is in the test phase. In case of interim adjustment in flights, equipment maintenance, system upgrading, etc, the Internet service may be interrupted for a while. Thank you for your understanding.

Then you’ll be sent a code that you have to jot down before your flight, because you’ll need it to log-in once aboard. Here’s how that’s described:

Your on board wifi code is: XXXXXX

Dear passenger, China Eastern Airlines now offers In-flight Internet service. Congratulations! You have won the 258 yuan-worth of qualification to enjoy the Inflight Internet service on your flight. Turn on your laptop or tablet (no mobile phone) after the plane levels off and search for the inflight Wi-Fi. Open the login page and enter the verification code. Your verification code is: XXXXXX. There might be occasional signal breaks during the travel because of force majeure. Thank you for your understanding. Enjoy the inflight Wi-Fi.

I’m not sure what exactly 258 yuan “worth of qualification” is, but I’m curious to find out.

I assume China Eastern makes you register in advance so they can track the sites you visit, just like how you have to enter your passport into a machine in most airline lounges in China in order to get a wifi code. Apparently the typical “great firewall of China” also applies on China Eastern, as you’d expect.

China-Wifi

This should be… interesting.

Bottom line

Perhaps it’s actually a good thing that China Eastern makes you register for wifi in advance, since it sounds like it’s free (I’m not sure for how long or how much data, though), and presumably it will keep other people off. I figured I’d post about this in case anyone else has an upcoming flight on China Eastern, since it sounds like it’s too late to sign-up for wifi once you’re on the plane. Gotta love China!

Anyone know of another airline that makes it this darn difficult to get wifi?

Comments

  1. No, not on an airline however back in 2007 when I was living in Italy the only way you could get WiFi was to go to a cyber (Internet) store where they required a passport before giving you an access number to log in. All this because terrorists had activated the bombs in the London attack from cell phones in Italy. These security restrictions are long gone now along with the stores and free and open WiFi is everywhere.

  2. When you log on inflight it will also ask you for another number in addition to the wifi code. Enter the last 4 of your passport in this field. Took me a lot of tries to get this answer in English from an FA!

    Speeds vary on position. Unusable over polar route. You’ll need VPN for google services. Speeds are pretty bad overall.

  3. Very slow speed. I got the code for free by contacting MU NYC office as I booked biz class tix directly with them. You absolutely won’t be able to post any photos. The most you can do is to send text messages on What’s App, LINE, FB Messenger…etc. but you’ll need to have VPN enabled. I recommend Express VPN.

  4. Thanks for the tip! Flying YYZ-PVG next week and looking forward to try this service. I guess it might be quite simple for me since I’m Chinese. Many things lost in translation~

  5. On Saudia, you don’t *need* to register in advance, but they do give business class passengers 25MB of data free if you download the Saudia Connect app and scan your boarding pass or type in your PNR within 45 minutes of scheduled departure time, so you might find it worthwhile to do that.

  6. As a Chinese native speaker I couldn’t get that to work. So if you couldn’t get it to work, I suggest you talk to an FA as soon as you board–they used to have a list of backup internet codes for premium cabin passengers. I also recommend bulkhead window seats in biz, as you have an extra elevated surface (maybe intended for bassinet?) in front of your seat to stow things like pillows or laptop during charging.

  7. My question after reading this: Doesn’t China block in flight Wi-Fi of foreign carriers? Why can their own airlines use it?

  8. @W From what I remember, ANA’s wifi on their 767s work in China, but Emirate’s wifi doesn’t work in more places than China.

    My bet would be on permission of individual wifi providers, rather than airlines.

  9. On a side note, you have been warned that the lounges in PVG T1 are horrible, to say the least. (Even by Chinese standards)

  10. Lucky, consider yourself very lucky that MU’s B777-300ER has wifi. I was on their A332 and A320 from SIN to XIY via PVG earlier this month and the flight attendants BANNED me from using my cellphone in flight mode when all I want to do was just edit photos! When I pointed out why my neighbors were allowed to watch movie on their iPads, they said that iPads were allowed because they had no transmitter and that this was the official China Eastern Airline’s company policy. Nonsensical!!

  11. I have used the Wifi in China Eastern for several times this year. It is FREE for now and 258 yuan means that the airline is doing a promotion and they would be charging 258 yuan sometime later. However, the speed is really slow and you cannot access any “blocked” service, such as Google, Twitter, Facebook…

  12. Typo:

    “China Eastern may has the most”

    Change “may” to “maybe” or just delete it.

  13. @ W — They block it over Chinese air space, so perhaps on China Eastern the wifi will work as long as you’re not over Chinese air space? Or maybe they have special permission.

  14. I don’t see the problem here? It’s obvious that this is a special offer for free wifi that you need to pre-register for. Seems like standard practice in the travel industry. And probably more convenient than entering credit card info on my phone on a plane.

    Also, regarding the “no wifi over China” problem on many carriers. It’s mostly likely due to China’s requirements on censorship. Since MU is doing the censoring, they would not have any problems offering wifi over China.

    This would also explain why people are complaining about speeds. Because all traffic are being routed back to the mainland, through the GFW to overseas. I’m guessing a Chinese site like baidu would be a lot faster on this wifi. Most of their customers are Chinese, and probably won’t even notice that it’s slow.

  15. Hi Lucky,
    I am flying this route on Monday. Thanks for the tip to sign up for wifi. I’ll let you know how it goes. I did get it for both legs. We shall see.

  16. Sooooo… if you booked a return flight with more than 3 legs, it seems that they only lit the first 3 legs on the wifi registration site… lol.. so i managed to get a code for leg #1…. but the only other flight that offers wifi is #4, which i can’t seem to get to. very interesting…

  17. You have to register in advance is due to Chinese Wi-Fi policy. For the public used policy, you have to register before using it. And since CAAC bans the usage of cellphone on board, the only way for you to register is to register before the flight…. Now it’s the second decade of 21st century, while CAAC still bans cellphone…. Really awkward!

  18. Hey guys, I’m currently onboatd of China Eastern flight (from Europe to PVG), an I’m connected through their onboard wifi service. Just to confirm couple things – it is routed through mainland (which is fine except for censorship), but it’s somewhat slow even for Chinese websites like Baidu (for ITs, first next hop is 1300ms in avg).
    You don’t need to register before hand. It’s asking for code, however you can just click on “no code” and it allows you to login, using seat nr. and last four numbers from your ID (passport).
    I’d like to note, that none EU-China flights are listed on MU website, however wifi access clearly depends only on the aircraft – i.e. if it is equipped with wifi or not.

    For mobile phones, as somebody else mentioned – this is regulation coming from government, not from airlines.

    Cheers V.

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