Qatar Airways has become the latest airline to sign a deal with Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite internet business to provide free video streaming quality inflight WiFi across the Doha-based carrier’s fleet.
The particulars of the deal remain few and far between, with Qatar Airways unable to confirm what aircraft or routes will feature the ultra-fast WiFi or even a timeline for the rollout.
Starlink is a division of Musk’s SpaceX program that provides high-speed broadband service via a ‘constellation’ of more than 2,000 satellites in low Earth orbit. Starlink was specifically designed to provide broadband service to remote regions with limited access to the internet.
Hawaiian Airlines became the first carrier to seal a deal with Starlink back in April 2022, while Qatar Airways is now the fifth major airline to have signed up to the Starlink service.
Qatar Airways currently has two inflight WiFi providers, SITA OnAir is a particularly slow service offered on Airbus A380 aircraft and Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners, while Inmarsat’s GX satellite service on the airline’s fleet of Airbus A350, Boeing 777s and Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners is much faster and more reliable.
The service provided by Starlink could, however, far surpass what passengers have come to expect from inflight WiFi.
“Passengers will be able to enjoy ultra-fast Wi-Fi speeds of up to 350 Megabits per second which can be used for a variety of internet-based services such as video streaming their favourite entertainment and sports videos, gaming, enriched web-browsing and much more,” the airline said in a statement.
Qatar Airways has promised a simple one-click access button for a simple and complimentary onboard WiFi service.
Starlink said the deal struck with Qatar Airways will see its WiFi service rolled out across the “entire Qatar Airways fleet”, meaning that the airline finally plans to provide internet service on its single-aisle aircraft, which are primarily used for regional flights.
It could also mean that Qatar Airways intends to upgrade the internet service on its A380 superjumbos despite the fact that airline CEO Akbar Al Baker would like to retire the aircraft sooner rather than later.
In any case, Starlink-enabled aircraft will provide gate-to-gate WiFi once it is eventually installed.
Along with Qatar Airways and Hawaiian, the other Starlink airline customers are JSX, airBaltic and Japan’s Zipair.
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.