A satellite power cut back in April has taken inflight Wi‑Fi offline on dozens of Emirates’ flagship Airbus A380 superjumbos, and it’s still not known when service might be restored, according to the Dubai-based airline.
To make matters worse, it’s understood that inflight Wi‑Fi services might not be back up and running until the final three months of the year once a brand-new satellite has been launched into space.
In a statement, the airline said that its popular Wi‑Fi service had been hit by a satellite issue outside of its control, although an Emirates spokesperson was unable to say when it hoped the technical hitch would be fixed.
The same issue has hit some aircraft operated by Japanese airline ANA which also uses the Sita OnAir inflight Wi‑Fi service. ANA attributed the issue to a satellite that provides internet services to Sita OnAir, which is owned and operated by Inmarsat.
The satellite in question is known as I-4 F1, which in mid-April suffered a “partial” loss of power which “invoked automatic procedures on the satellite that led to the suspension of services”, according to an Inmarsat statement.
Most of the satellite’s systems, which include critical maritime safety services, were quickly restored, but there are still ongoing issues with some other services.
A spokesperson for the British satellite telecommunications company said it doesn’t comment on services provided to individual companies, but it was able to provide an update on the I-4 F1 outage.
“As background on the I-4 F1 satellite, an outage occurred on 16 April, and while most services were restored by 18 April, residual issues on some services continued, including for SwiftBroadband,” an emailed statement from the company explained.
“To implement a full recovery, we are working closely with manufacturers, services providers and affected airlines and aim to achieve the transition of services to the new I-6 F1 satellite by mid-August ’23,” the statement continued.
“We can confirm that the acceleration programme to introduce I-6 F1 into service and subsequent fleet re-arrangement is aimed to be completed during Q4 2023.”
The outage occurred a month before Emirates restored its popular free Wi-Fi service for all customers. Emirates cut free access to onboard connectivity during the pandemic but has restored access in some form or another.
Since free WiFi connectivity was introduced, Emirates has seen a 30% increase in passengers accessing inflight internet, with around 450,000 users per month. Passengers on flights to and from the Americas are the most likely to access inflight WiFi, with around 20% of passengers connecting to onboard internet services.
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.