British Airways to test onboard wifi

26 Nov 2013 by GrahamSmith

British Airways has confirmed it is to run a connectivity trial on one of its Boeing 747 aircraft over the course of 2014.

The aircraft will be fitted with the Panasonic Global Communications Suite "to provide a range of entertainment to customers' personal electronic devices under the name High Life Connect".

The B747-400 will operate on a range of different routes "to test how the system performs and identify usage levels to and from a range of destinations".

As discussed on the Business Traveller forum, the new service will enable travellers to watch live television broadcasts from BBC World, CNN, Euro News and Sport 24, as well as stream a selection of movies and TV shows to their personal devices. This is in addition to the usual in-flight entertainment provided.

There is currently no information about how much passengers will be charged for wifi, although, as with other carriers, there will be the option of paying an hourly rate or buying a flight pass valid for 24 hours.

The trial will involve offering the service at different price points, to see how responsive travellers are, and initially will not be announced to the whole aircraft, but to select flyers.

Interestingly, although the aircraft will also feature mobile phone connectivity and, for a separate roaming charge, customers will be able to receive data and texts over their mobile phones, it will not be possible to make voice calls. Why? It seems BA does not believe that this is something the majority of its passengers want.

A BA spokesman said that once the test is completed at the end of 2014, the airline will evaluate its success with a view to potentially extending the service to more aircraft.

The trial is also understood to be separate from Vueling's plans to roll out inflight wifi throughout its fleet next year (see news, November 14).

Tom Otley

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