SpaceX signs Hawaiian Airlines for free Starlink WiFi on flights

Hawaiian Airlines plane

Ludwig Nastro | Reuters

SpaceX will begin providing wireless internet on Hawaiian Airlines flights as early as next year via the Starlink satellite network, a service the airline told CNBC that it plans to offer passengers free of charge.

The deal is the first for Elon Musk’s space company with a major airline. Starlink is SpaceX’s network of approximately 2,000 low-Earth orbiting satellites designed to bring high-speed internet to consumers and businesses around the world.

Hawaiian’s plan for free connectivity with Starlink could put pressure on competitors to offer travelers free Wi-Fi, which is currently available on JetBlue Airways. For example, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said in 2018 that the airline wanted to offer free high-speed WiFi on its planes. It was tested on a few flights in 2019.

Installation of Starlink terminals, also known as antennas, is scheduled to begin on Hawaiian planes next year. The airline has yet to begin testing Starlink on an aircraft, and there are “certification issues that need to be resolved before we’re ready to operate the product,” Hawaiian’s chief marketing and communications officer, Avi Mannis, said in an Interview. “But we’re confident there’s a way forward for that.”

The airline declined to disclose the financial details of its deal with SpaceX.

Hawaiian does not currently offer onboard WiFi and operates an extensive network of Pacific Ocean flights serving the mainland United States, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, among others, from Hawaii. It plans to offer Starlink connectivity on its flights from its home state to cities across the US mainland and to its international destinations.

“In the past we’ve looked at our market and haven’t seen great options over the Pacific. We actually have no connectivity in our fleet today,” Mannis said. “Options have improved over time, but we waited until there was a product offering…that we thought would meet our guests’ expectations.”

At the end of 2021, the listed Hawaiian had 24 Airbus A330-200s and 18 A321s. The company plans to equip its upcoming Boeing 787s with Starlink as well. Its 717s, which will be used for intra-island flights, are excluded from the deal, Mannis said.

Mannis didn’t specify what internet speed SpaceX advertised that Starlink would deliver on the planes, but said that “the kind of performance that they talked about and showed was very impressive.”

In a press release from Hawaiian, Jonathan Hofeller, vice president of commercial sales for Starlink at SpaceX, also praised the product’s performance: “Hawaiian Airlines ensures its passengers experience high-speed internet the way we do in the 21 like downloading movies before the start a relic of the past.”

Mannis, the executive at Hawaiian, emphasized that SpaceX’s vision for onboard internet is “very different” from other competing satellite broadband providers, and said the goals for Starlink are for the service to be “fast, seamless and free.” should be .”

SpaceX said last year it was in touch with several airlines to offer inflight service.

Last week, semi-private charter operator JSX said it had struck a deal for Starlink Wi-fi, the first airline to do so. SpaceX currently has approximately 250,000 total Starlink subscribers, including both consumer and enterprise customers. Users pay $110 per month for the standard service and $500 per month for the premium tier in addition to the hardware fees.

Hawaiian will report quarterly earnings after the market close on Tuesday. SpaceX signs Hawaiian Airlines for free Starlink WiFi on flights

Chrissy Callahan

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