Japan Airlines has announced it will now offer free in-flight wi-fi for all passengers on the airline’s domestic routes. JAL has offered in-flight wi-fi since July 2014 on the majority of its domestic routes but has previously charged eye-watering amounts to access the service. The change is effective immediately.
The wi-fi service is provided by Gogo which uses a satellite communication network that can have patchy and at times unreliable service. JAL has also warned customers that the “connection might become weak or unstable when there is a concentration of access.” Or in other words, if everyone decides to access the free service then don’t expect to be able to stream Netflix.
It’s a similar problem that Emirates has faced with its generous in-flight wi-fi offering. The Dubai-based airline has been offering free wi-fi to all its customers on all enabled aircraft for several years, in what Emirates called a “value-added part of Emirates’ overall product, rather than a revenue stream.”
Back in 2014, Tim Clark, the President of Emirates announced: “Ultimately, we believe that on-board Wi-Fi will become a free service, and a standard that customers will expect on a full-service airline.” Unfortunately, Emirates has been forced to change its wi-fi pricing structure due to slow connection speeds and unreliable service.
Since June 14th Emirates has been trialling a new wi-fi pricing structure that sees passengers enjoy 10MB of free data before having to select a more expensive pricing plan. 150MB of data will cost $9.99 USD, while 500MB will set passengers back $15.99 USD. Emirates First and Business Class passengers who are signed up to the Skywards frequent flyer programme will continue to enjoy complimentary wi-fi.
In an internal memo to staff, Emirates said the decision was made due to the popularity of the service. The airline said approximately 750,000 customers connect to the free service every month. Rowing back from Clark’s initial view of inflight wi-fi, an Emirates spokesperson commented:
“Getting Wi-Fi in the air is expensive, and within the limits of today’s technology, connecting isn’t easy. We’ve invested a huge amount in equipping our aircraft. So we’ll start charging customers a relatively small amount towards the service.”
But back to the Japan Airlines wi-fi service, which will be available from 5 minutes after take-off to 5 minutes before landing. However, the airline has cautioned that free wi-fi won’t be available on equipped international aircraft when used on domestic routes. You can tell if your flight has free wi-fi if you see a FREE FLIGHT PASS button on the login screen.
The Gogo service should be good enough for simple web browsing, social media updates and checking emails. Although it’s unlikely that signal strength will be good enough to stream music or video, you can still take advantage of JAL’s free in-flight video streaming service. The airline didn’t have a list of programming available at the time of publication.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.