Hawaiian Airlines Features Free Wi-Fi at SpaceX Starlink

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Hawaiian Airlines A321 aircraft with Starlink WiFi installed.

Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines is rolling out complimentary Wi-Fi via Starlink SpaceX aboard commercial flights this week, the companies told CNBC, the first major US airline to offer the satellite service.

“SpaceX has cracked the code—literally, in terms of the technology—to be able to deliver very high bandwidth connectivity to an aircraft with global reach,” Peter Ingram, CEO of Hawaiian Airlines, told CNBC .

Hawaiian’s plan for free Wi-Fi comes as airlines increase their offerings for high-speed connections. JetBlue Airways offers free Wi-Fi on board, and last year Delta Air Lines to launch a free internet board for members of its loyalty program, after years of planning.

Hawaiian has an extensive network of flights across the Pacific Ocean, serving the US mainland, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, among other destinations, from Hawaii.

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“It really feels like an experience that shouldn’t be possible when you get on a commercial flight. your own home,” Chad Gibbs, SpaceX’s vice president of Starlink business operations, told CNBC.

“We have a completely different paradigm now, which is that there are incredible amounts of capacity and bandwidth that we can bring to the aircraft,” Gibbs said.

Hawaiian signed an agreement with SpaceX in April 2022, looking to use the Starlink network – which has more than 5,000 satellites in low Earth orbit and has more than 2.3 million customers worldwide . The airline has not previously offered in-flight Wi-Fi.

A Starlink terminal installed on a Hawaiian Airlines flight.

Hawaiian Airlines

The companies did not disclose the value of the deal or how much it would cost to install each of the unique Starlink antennas on a commercial aircraft.

Ingram, however, emphasized that “the costs of this have decreased from what the early Wi-Fi systems were.” He noted that Hawaiian is “actively” installing Starlink terminals, with six completed on its Airbus A321 planes so far.

In total, Hawaiian plans to add Starlink to 18 of its A321 jets and 24 of its A330 aircraft later this year.

“We think it’s really going to set a whole new standard for connectivity on planes,” Ingram said.

The companies planned to begin installing Starlink terminals last year, but Ingram said SpaceX must launch more next-generation Starlink satellites and receive certification from the Federal Aviation Administration before the installation.

SpaceX has been consistently seeking the necessary permits for a wide variety of aircraft. It has been certified for smaller jets, with semi-private charter JSX starting to use the service at the end of 2022.

“To date Starlink has been used on more than 30,000 aircraft, on flights across the US and around the world,” said Gibbs.

In addition to Hawaiian, SpaceX has announced Starlink inflight Wi-Fi deals with Latvia’s AirBaltic, Japan’s Zipair and Qatar Airways.

The additional Starlink service to Hawaiian comes shortly after the airline reached an agreement late last year to acquire Alaska Airlines in a $1.9 billion deal.

— CNBC’s Leslie Josephs contributed to this report.

Elon Musk's Starlink business has grown rapidly and so has its influence
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