If you’re flying Hawaiian Airlines between Hawaii and the U.S. mainland, you may soon have access to fast, free Wi-Fi via Elon Musk’s Starlink technology.
Hawaiian Airlines debuted its new high-speed internet technology service Thursday on an Airbus A321neo flight from Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) to Long Beach Airport (LGB) in California.
It’s a milestone for the carrier, coming nearly two years after it first announced plans to bring the satellite-based, high-speed broadband service to its fleet of transpacific aircraft.
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As part of this week’s Starlink debut, Hawaiian became the first major airline, it said, to deploy the technology. However, several other carriers have launched it or have plans to. TPG was able to test the blazing-fast Starlink service aboard semi-private carrier JSX last March, for one.
Now, Hawaiian is preparing to deploy the technology to much more of its fleet.
Hawaiian Airlines expanding Wi-Fi connectivity
Hawaiian is starting small as it rolls out Starlink connectivity to its aircraft. But travelers can expect many more of its jets to be outfitted with the technology in the coming months.
With Federal Aviation Administration approval to add the technology to its fleet of A321neo aircraft, the carrier says all of its 18 A321neos will be Starlink-equipped later this spring.
Then, Hawaiian plans to add the technology to its Airbus A330 jets. The airline says those should be activated by the end of the year.
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Once all of its A321neos and A330s are set up, the airline will move on to its incoming fleet of Boeing 787-9 aircraft, with Hawaiian set to operate its first Dreamliner flight on April 15.
Ultimately, the company hopes to deploy the service across its entire transpacific fleet.
Until then, what is the best way to know if your aircraft is equipped? Look for the Starlink decal on the side of the plane as you board. Hawaiian says as the rollout happens, Wi-Fi availability will just be a nice “surprise and delight” you’ll find as you board.
Does Hawaiian Airlines charge for Wi-Fi?
Here’s the best part of Hawaiian’s new Starlink Wi-Fi: The airline plans to make it available for free.
In fact, the airline says you’ll be able to connect without navigating any registration or landing pages.
And, the service will be available from the moment you step on — no waiting until the aircraft passes 10,000 feet.
If your aircraft is equipped, search for the “Starlink WiFi on Hawaiian Air” network and connect. You’ll be able to connect as many of your devices as you want.
The service should be sufficient to stream videos, shows and movies, according to the airline. This will be a welcome technological advance for travelers who have dealt with years of spotty connectivity on many airlines.
“Starlink’s self-designed aviation terminal installed on Hawaiian’s aircraft allows each plane to receive strong, fast internet signals from the satellites orbiting above Earth,” Will Seidel, director of Starlink engineering at Musk’s SpaceX said in a statement announcing the new service.
“The terminal will seamlessly switch connections from satellite to satellite as planes cross the Pacific, providing an uninterrupted internet experience for passengers,” Seidel explained.
More airlines offer free Wi-Fi…and Starlink
Hawaiian isn’t alone among U.S. carriers in offering free Wi-Fi to customers.
JetBlue has offered its free Wi-Fi service for years. Delta Air Lines did the same last year, rolling the service out to much of its network and requiring only a SkyMiles number for access. (The carrier later touted this move as a catalyst for driving more frequent flyer sign-ups.) The airline plans to roll out service to its fleet of regional jets over the course of this year.
Unlike Delta’s approach, it appears you will not need a Hawaiian Miles loyalty account to access the service.
Among the four largest U.S. airlines, though, American Airlines, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines still charge customers to fully browse the internet.
Meanwhile, you can also expect to see Starlink on a growing number of flights in the future. Most notably, Qatar announced plans last fall to add the technology to its aircraft, while Air New Zealand said it would do the some on domestic flights.