SpaceX’s Starlink is bringing Wi-Fi to Hawaiian Airlines. And it's 100 percent free

SpaceX's Starlink is about to make your flights extremely online.
Brad Bergan
A Hawaiian Airlines plane taking off.Dylan Ashe / Paradise Bound / Wikimedia

It's time to say goodbye to saying goodbye to loved ones before a flight.

Elon Musk's SpaceX will offer wireless internet on Hawaiian Airlines flights using the expansive powers of the Starlink satellite network, as soon as early 2023, according to a press release from the airline.

While this is SpaceX's first deal with a major airline, perhaps the most crucial feature of this arrangement is: the Wi-Fi service will be provided to all passengers, at no charge whatsoever, according to a CNBC report.

SpaceX's Starlink service on Hawaiian Airlines could put pressure on rivals 

This comes after a decade-long push for SpaceX to install roughly 2,000 satellites in low-Earth orbit (LEO) — each designed to provide high-speed internet to businesses and individual consumers, anywhere on the surface of Earth.

Hawaiian Airlines aims to offer complimentary service via Starlink, and this move will likely put pressure on its rivals in the airline industry to give passengers free Wi-Fi, which only JetBlue Airways offers, as of writing. But other airlines have thrown the idea around in the past.

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In 2018, CEO Delta Air Lines Ed Bastian said his firm was considering complimentary, high-speed Wi-Fi on its aircraft — and even tested the service in 2019 (on select flights). 

Starlink to provide a seamless online experience to Hawaiian Airlines' passengers

Starlink terminal installation on Hawaiian aircraft is slated to begin next year, although no tests of Starlink systems have been attempted yet, since there exist "certification issues that need to be worked through before we're ready to operate the product," said Chief Marketing and Communications Officer of Hawaiian, Avi Mannis, in the CNBC report.

"But we're confident that there's a path forward for that," Mannis added. "When we launch with Starlink we will have the best connectivity experience available in the air," said Peter Ingram, Hawaiian's President and CEO, in the press release. "We waited until technology caught up with our high standards for guest experience, but it will be worth the wait."

On the consumer-facing side, the airline wants to ensure its passengers "experience high-speed internet the way we expect it in the 21st century, making hassles like downloading movies before takeoff a relic of the past," said Jonathan Hofeller, SpaceX's vice president of Starlink commercial sales, in the release. "With Starlink, the inflight experience is greatly simplified so that once passengers step onboard the plane the internet works seamlessly throughout their flight."

Hawaiian Airlines' extensive network is going extremely online

Starlink's laser mesh network is ideal for Hawaiian's aims, enabling consumers to "stream content, play games live with friends on the ground, work and collaborate in real-time, plan their Hawai'i vacation, or share their special island moments on social media," read the release. 

Hawaiian Airlines has as of yet offered no inflight Wi-Fi, which means its giant network of cross-Pacific-Ocean flights, from the mainland U.S. to Japan, to New Zealand, Australia, and many more — with Hawaii in the center — is about to experience a major transformation in quality of in-flight experience. While we don't recommend engaging in major Twitter drama during a cross-Pacific flight, there's one inevitability that feels undeniable: passengers on Hawaiian Airlines are about to have the option to remain extremely online while they travel between opposite sides of the world. But what that will mean after Elon Musk buys Twitter remains to be seen.

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