With yesterday’s airline news, we’re left wondering if a switch-up could lie ahead for one of Hawaiian Airlines’ biggest plans. Here’s why.
While this may seem only distantly related, that’s not the case. Doha-based Qatar Airways just became the largest and latest airline to announce wide-scale deployment of Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite WiFi.
What’s significant here is that Hawaiian has been due to be Starlink’s next major airline deployment.
Could Qatar pass over the long-awaited Hawaiian Airlines WiFi?
Many regular flyers have been waiting nearly a decade for Hawaiian Airlines still just over the horizon WiFi. Starlink is poised to offer ubiquitous free WiFi access and gate-to-gate connectivity with video streaming speeds of up to 350 Mbps.
That service will also come to some or all of the far larger Qatar fleet. We’re waiting anxiously to see if Hawaiian actually gets this moving first and can remain ahead of Qatar.
In 2022, Hawaiian first tested Starlink WiFi, successfully delivering YouTube, Netflix, and video chat capabilities over the Pacific Ocean. When implemented, Hawaiian will offer WiFi at no cost for all passengers on their A321, A330 planes, and upcoming Boeing 787 Dreamliners. Hawaiian said it won’t equip its interisland fleet with WiFi.
Other airlines’ Hawaii WiFi has left us wanting.
When an airline promises WiFi, it must meet passengers’ expectations, especially on long flights across the Pacific. WiFi is similar to electricity or other utilities and is now a part of the “implied carriage agreement” between airlines and their passengers.
We have recently been disappointed with Delta Air Lines WiFi and United Airlines WiFi. These airlines don’t consistently offer the service to Hawaii, even when they say that they do. At other times, it works fine. In total, it is maddening never to know what to expect.
The exact details of the latest Starlink deal aren’t clear yet. Why?
Qatar has not confirmed which of its planes or routes will receive the Starlink satellite WiFi or when that might happen. We’re wondering if Qatar’s somewhat strange and incomplete announcement even relates somehow plans for Hawaiian Airlines to be the next Starlink customer.
Qatar Airways Is handily 5x the size of Hawaiian Airlines.
The point here is that if Hawaiian doesn’t move quickly, and Qatar does, we would not be surprised to see Starlink first arrive in Doha instead of in Honolulu. That remains to be seen. Qatar has a fleet of 250+ planes, while Hawaiian has 61 planes.
As is true with Hawaiian’s announcement, Qatar just said it is “proud to announce its agreement with Starlink to provide seamless and complimentary WiFi to its global passengers. This exciting collaboration is not only in line with our industry-leading approach to technological adoption but also serves as an unmissable opportunity to connect Starlink to our global passengers.”
Qatar further promises “simple one-click access,” a point about which Hawaiian hasn’t commented.
Other notable Starlink airline partners and those interested.
Qatar is the latest but isn’t the only other airline using or interested in deploying Starlink. Earlier this year, charter carrier JSX, which we just wrote about, became the first. Delta has also done testing with Starlink, and we would not be surprised to see them come on board at some point, perhaps following one of these other significant deployments.
Last update we received from Hawaiian Airlines.
Earlier this year, we talked with Avi Mannis, Hawaiian’s senior VP and chief marketing and communications officer. He told us that Starlink WiFi is currently being certified and indicated that it is a tedious process. We aren’t clear on why, given that Hawaii is no longer the launch partner for the product. He advised that WiFi won’t be available until sometime next year. Also, the new Dreamliner will not be the first to get WiFi, he said, since that has to be installed post delivery from Boeing.