From next year, passengers on Alaska Airlines’ regional routes will be able to access “streaming-fast” satellite Wi-Fi onboard as the carrier upgrades its short-haul jets with new in-flight connectivity (IFC) systems from Intelsat.
The airline has already partnered with Intelsat and will deliver satellite Wi-Fi to its entire mainline fleet by April of this year. But the newly announced $25 million project will make Alaska Airlines the first carrier to offer high-speed internet on its regional jets as well.
Beginning in early 2024, Intelsat IFC systems will be installed on the 35 Embraer E175 jets operated by Horizon Air, the Alaska Air Group’s regional subsidiary. Over the following two years, the systems will be rolled out across the group’s regional jet fleet, including aircraft operated by its partner Sky West.
Intelsat’s new system “closely aligns with Alaska’s needs for our regional fleet,” the carrier said in a statement.
The cutting-edge system uses an electronically steered array (ESA), a small, lightweight antenna with no moving parts that’s easier to maintain in a regional environment.
The system also communicates with both traditional geostationary (GEO) satellites, located 22,000 miles from Earth, and new low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites positioned just 300 miles above the ground. The LEO satellites mean Intelsat can deliver higher speeds and lower latency (delay in sending data packets), and provide coverage in remote areas of Alaska.
“By using both LEO satellites from OneWeb, in combination with Intelsat’s own fleet of GEO satellites, we can deliver the most consistent, reliable, streaming-quality inflight internet experience to airlines and their guests,” explained Dave Bijur, Senior Vice President of Commercial at Intelsat.
Alaska Airlines said onboard satellite Wi-Fi will enable passengers to use the internet just like they do on the ground. That includes streaming content from Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and TikTok or hopping online to get work done. Passengers will also enjoy seamless Wi-Fi from the moment they board, “from gate to gate.”
“Bringing a streaming-fast satellite Wi-Fi solution to our regional jets is another key investment in modernizing our fleet, emphasizing innovation and taking care of our guests’ changing needs,” said Sangita Woerner, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Guest Experience for Alaska Airlines.
“With the growth in remote work, we know staying connected at 34,000 feet is more important than ever. Intelsat’s new system will give our guests the peace of mind that no matter whether it’s a short flight or longer journey, there will be reliable, affordable and convenient Wi-Fi. It’s just another way we show care in the air,” she added.
Alaska Airlines isn’t the only carrier linking up with LEO satellites to deliver lightning-quick in-flight internet. Earlier this month, airBaltic announced that it will be the first European carrier to install SpaceX’s Starlink system on its planes.