Drawing to the end of 2020, British Airways is on the final leg to complete its retrofit of providing onboard Wi-Fi. Since the ability to have internet access on flights, there have been significant advances in onboard Wi-Fi.
Connectivity on flights is becoming ever more important. According to Inmarsat’s annual Inflight Connectivity Survey, 61 per cent of travellers polled believe in-flight connectivity is more important than in-flight entertainment and 53% of people polled were willing to sacrifice their inflight alcoholic drink in exchange for access to Wi-Fi.
For the working professional, you can expect them to be connected to the net as much as possible, being without internet for eight to 14 hours can punch a black hole in your working schedule, creating the need for an often-frantic catch-up marathon once you land.
What is the British Airways Wi-Fi Roadmap?
The roll-out of BA in-flight Wi-Fi commenced back in 2016 and is expected to be completed by the end of 2020 with 90% of all aircraft being connected.
It has been no small task, but better late than never. Issues have arisen such as how the backbone of BA’s fleet has been thrown into limbo recently; plans to modernise the fleet have been stalled thanks to Covid-19.
What’s more, is that BA has generally been more reserved when it comes to onboard offerings and being one of the last to the market, it should mean their product is one of the most advanced in the air. In fact, they have been so late to the party that they have started with 2nd generation technology. For the tech geeks amongst us, it’s being operated by Gogo using their 2Ku satellite technology which is the same solution used by Cathay Pacific in their B777 and A330 aircraft.
BA has been quite tight-lipped on the matter of Wi-Fi as it is awaiting full roll-out before announcing it to the world. Unfortunately, the push to Wi-Fi has seen some casualties along the way, notably, the High Life magazine on British Airways flights will now be an online exclusive only.
How To Get Connected
On-board Wi-Fi is not ‘gate to gate’ and only kicks in when the aircraft is at altitude. Once cruising above 10,000ft enable ‘flight mode’ on your device and look for the SSID called “BAWi-Fi”. It is a publicly broadcasted Wi-Fi network.
Once connected, open your web browser and the .air homepage will open automatically. If not, head to shop.ba.com from your browser (on your phone or laptop) and get to the landing page.
Luckily things have gotten simpler and you can now purchase Wi-Fi as a guest but you will be required to enter your payment information each time you purchase a package. If you decide to register for a .air account you will be able to use saved cards to process payments and access the Wi-Fi quicker each time you fly.
Shopping.ba.com (Executive Club e-Store) and Shop.ba.com (BA onboard Wi-Fi) use different login details. BAEC credentials do not work for Onboard Wi-Fi.
If you are in first-class – head to the rewards page to get online. It’ll ask for your seat assignment and last name to verify you’re actually sitting in first-class.
Does Your British Airways Flight Have Wi-Fi?
The question around which aircraft have and will have Wi-Fi is a hot topic question. BA is targeting both long-haul and short-haul aircraft in this update, but with all things, it does come down to cost and return on investment. The fact is that some aircraft won’t be getting Wi-Fi at all as they are too close to being retired.
For long haul aircraft, the original plan was for the 747’s and 777’s to be retrofitted with onboard Wi-Fi. The only planes that were not getting an upgrade were sixteen 747-400 Mid-J, one 747 Super Hi-J and three 777 4-Class. The plan went out the window with Covid-19 as all the 747’s saw early retirement.
Currently these are the aircraft with Wifi:
- A350-1000 – All fitted (6 aircraft)
- A380 – All fitted (12 aircraft)
- 777-200ER – All fitted (43 aircraft)
- 777-300ER – All fitted (12 aircraft)
- 787-8 – 6 out of 12 aircraft fitted
- 787-9 – 14 out of 18 aircraft fitted
- 787-10 – All fitted (2 aircraft)
The introduction of BA Wifi on short-haul flights is expected to be completed by the middle of 2019, at which point it will be turned on.
Currently these are the aircraft with Wifi:
- A319 – 12/35 Aircraft (23 will not be fitted with WiFi)
- A320 – 61/67 Aircraft
- A320neo – All fitted (12 aircraft)
- A321 – 15/18 Aircraft
- A321neo – All fitted (10 aircraft)
The 23 A319 aircraft not to receive wifi have the tail registration:
How Much Does Wi-Fi cost?
Not surprisingly, Wi-Fi does come at a cost unless you are privileged enough to travel sit in the pointy end of the plane. First-class passengers on long haul flights currently enjoy streaming-level speed for free on the entire flight, with no restrictions. It’s a different approach to say the likes of JetBlue which is known for offering free Wi-Fi to all passengers onboard.
Unfortunately, your internet session is linked to the device you purchased it on and will not be transferrable. If you want to get connected on multiple devices you will need to purchase multiple plans. However, this may be a blessing as not all seats have power connectors to charge devices so your use may be limited without a power bank (especially on long haul flights).
British Airways Wi-Fi comes in three different pricing models as it varies depending on the aircraft and whether it is part of the long haul or short haul fleet. You can see which aircraft type is operating your flight by going to ‘Manage My Booking‘ at ba.com and clicking on the detailed flight information.
Long Haul (By Time)
For all long haul planes except the A350 and 787-10
If you are in First, you get free WiFi. For those in other cabins the costs are:
|Full Flight||£14.99||up to £23.99 depending on route|
Importantly, a full flight is considered only as the sole leg you purchased the internet package on. This means that if you are on BA15 (for instance) from London to Sydney, then you will need to purchase 2 full flight passes as the stop in singapore breaks up your journey into two flights.
Long Haul (By Data Usage)
The A350 and 787-10 use this method (due to a different system being installed).
- 25MB: £4.99
- 75MB: £11.99
- 150MB: £17.99
Short Haul (By Time)
If you are on a short haul flight which uses a short haul plane, the pricing is as followed.
Note: sometimes when they swap planes for a long-haul one, the pricing model does change correctly sometimes.
- Messaging: £1.99 or £2.99 depending on flight distance.
- Browse & Stream (one hour):£4.99
- Browse & Stream (whole flight):£4.99 to 9.99 depending on the distance
How Fast is the Internet?
The exact answer is subjective as total bandwidth is shared between everyone who is using internet at that moment.
But if you get the plan that is for streaming then it is rated for use with Netflix so there shouldn’t be any issues.
BA’s claim that Browse will deliver a “minimum 250kbps experience”. Browse is clearly for very modest use, including messaging and web-based email.
As with all systems there are times when the system doesn’t work, unfortunately the feeling is a bit more aggravating 30,000 ft in the air.
There are a few common times you will loose connection like when there is a satellite handover ie. when you move from one satellite cell to another.
It is important to remember that there are outage zones due to lack of coverage or government regulations such as when flying over Indian airspace, Northern Polar Regions and the South Indian Ocean.
British Airways came somewhat late to the WiFi party, but it’s steadily rolling out the technology across its network.
As you can see, your chances of being on a wifi-enabled flight vary depending on which aircraft type you are on. In this transition period it is a bit annoying to think your flight has Wi-Fi only to find out when you are on board that it’s not there.
Unsurprisingly, the notion of onboard Wi-Fi is like all the other added extras BA is cramming in and that it’s a use or not mentality. If you need it, you will pay for it and if you don’t then there is always in-flight entertainment to keep you busy.