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Hawaiian Airlines Free WiFi Test Flight: YouTube, Netflix, VideoChat At 30K/Feet

We are literally just months away from Hawaiian Airlines’ launch of its highly touted Starlink Wifi. And BOH editor Jeff, for one, can’t wait. He’s traveling to and from the mainland this week, and he’s already missing the connectivity he normally finds on every other carrier he flies from and to Hawaii.

Last week there was the first major demonstration of the Starlink satellite system and what it will deliver to Hawaii flights. That includes YouTube, Netflix, and video chat over the Pacific Ocean at 30,000 feet. To prove the functionality, SpaceX’s Starlink just held a media demo flight on U.S. regional airline JSX. They were the first airline to sign on with Starlink service and were followed quickly by Hawaiian.

The test flight was from Burbank to San Jose, which was just under an hour, to prove they could outdo the current inflight WiFi from carriers Viasat and Intelsat. Those companies, plus others, already have more than 10,000 airliner installations. That market is set to triple soon.

If this all works as planned, internet functionality on airlines will get far better than what we have experienced to date. Especially on flights to and from Hawaii.

Will Starlink be adequate to support 189-301 passenger Hawaiian airplanes?

Starlink delivers WiFi via a virtual constellation of small low-altitude satellites. The signals are said to be more robust with less latency (lag). On the other hand, the Starlink satellites have less bandwidth capability, and others are questioning if that could become an issue. How many will be in a given area to support Hawaiian’s fleet?

Aside: you can see Starlink satellite in your area by going to the findstarlink.com website. 

Given that the WiFi will be 100% free to use on Hawaiian Airlines, can the Starlink satellites support their A321 planes with 189 passengers, A330 planes with 278 passengers, and upcoming 787 planes with 301 passengers? We’ll know soon enough.

As a reminder, Hawaiian has not announced plans to bring WiFi to their interisland fleet. Southwest does offer satellite WiFi both interisland and trans-Pacific to and from Hawaii. It comes, however, with an $8 cost, and it wasn’t working well on Jeff’s Southwest review flight.

During last week’s Starlink test flight, performance was good and recorded at more than 100mbs download speed. The simulated demand was equivalent to up to 30 passengers onboard. That’s a far shot from 301 passengers, however. The demo included the use of video chat, YouTube, and Netflix, plus less intensive web browsing and email.

Recently, US regulators said that Starlink’s “still developing technology” is too new when it rejected their request for a nearly $1B government subsidy. The company said, however, that the rejection was unfair and didn’t adequately consider Starlink’s performance once their network is completed. The company also cited the agreement with Hawaiian as proof that the airline industry believes in the product.

Which airlines are onboard Starlink WiFi?

Starlink announced both the JSX and Hawaiian Airlines agreements this past spring. According to reports, the four biggest US airlines all rejected Starlink previously. A few months ago, Delta Airlines’ CEO said they were considering Starlink. There was, however, no further announcement which leads us to conclude that a deal never materialized.

So in some ways, both JSX and Hawaiian will be the make-it-or-break-it proof that Starlink needs at this point. Thereafter, there are countless aircraft across all the US airlines that will be ready for an upgrade. We suspect Hawaiian may have gotten a sweetheart deal to get them to be the first big airline partner to sign on.

Frontier Airlines is also said to be in discussions about adding Starlink WiFi, according to their CEO last week. That company, like Hawaiian, currently offers no WiFi.

Are you ready to connect over the Pacific, or will you miss having time when you are unreachable?

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8 thoughts on “Hawaiian Airlines Free WiFi Test Flight: YouTube, Netflix, VideoChat At 30K/Feet”

  1. I enjoy being unconnected on the trans-Pacific flights and don’t look forward to having to listen to other passengers’ conversations. For some reason, people in public, such as when in restaurants, seem to talk more loudly than they would at home, and I sadly predict that this behavior would occur on planes.

  2. Ultimately I think onboard WiFi is the wave of the future. A good friend of ours used to work for a company that did IFE system installations. He told me once that on a wide body, twin-aisle plane like the 767 (the A330 is in the same class, the total weight of current seatback systems would be in the neighborhood of 3,500 pounds. That is quite a bit of weight to haul around and co$t$ money in fuel!

  3. We too had difficulty with the SW internet, for that matter Alaska wasn’t any better.
    Yes, I would like to have a functioning Starlink internet.

  4. I suspect your right that Hawaiian got a sweetheart deal. Perhaps since the biggest advantage of Starlink is how well it works in isolated areas like transpacific flying and that’s all Hawaiian does so it make sense the mainland carriers didn’t see it as important since they already had wifi and didn’t see changing wifi as important when it’s biggest plus was for improving transpacific wifi. That’s why I’m so pro Hawaiian on here. Their focus is solely on the Hawaii market, everyone else it’s secondary to their big picture. It often shows up in little (and sometimes big) ways.

    1. Oh and to your question i look forward to good wifi and the ability to text and stay connected, I only have a few serial texters in my life…Not sure how I feel about people talking on their phones though. Although I guess it’s no worse then people talking to who they are seated next to?
      Curious what others think about that. Personally I would be a little uncomfortable carrying on a phone call on a flight.

  5. For all those that say they prefer no wifi when they fly to and from Hawaii, I think that’s great. But for those of us that are required to work at certain times, wifi is necessary for Hawaiian residents and travelers.

    This is too long over due. Thank you ‘Beat’ for continuing to update us.

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