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Emirates Launches Free Inflight Wi-Fi Access for Skywards Members

All Emirates passengers can now enjoy onboard Wi-Fi at no extra cost if they sign up to the airline's Skywards loyalty program

by Lauren Smith

May 23, 2023

Photo: Courtesy of Emirates

Emirates, the renowned Gulf carrier, has exciting news for its Skywards loyalty program members. In a move that revives and expands a pre-pandemic perk, the airline reintroduces complimentary onboard connectivity for passengers during their flights, regardless of their ticket class.

This welcome development comes as the airline reported bumper profits and marks a significant milestone in the carrier’s commitment to enhancing the travel experience for its valued customers.

Photo: Business Class, Boeing 777. Courtesy of Emirates.

Previously, the carrier offered complimentary connectivity to Business and First Class customers with unlimited access, while economy class travelers received two hours of messaging or 20MB of data at no cost.

However, due to the economic pressures caused by the global pandemic and the challenges of managing bulk data purchases for a reduced fleet, Emirates temporarily discontinued the complimentary service in May 2020, requiring passengers to pay for Wi-Fi access.

With Emirates fully operational and enjoying solid financial performance, the airline has embraced the opportunity to reinstate its digital largess.

Although the carrier had quietly introduced free Wi-Fi onboard its Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 fleet earlier this year, the official announcement emphasizes the restoration of this highly anticipated amenity.

Unlimited for First, Business Class Passengers

First, Emirates Skywards members seated in First Class, Platinum members in any cabin, and Gold and Silver members in Business Class can access unlimited internet throughout the flight without data caps.

Photo: First Class Suite. Courtesy of Emirates.

All other Emirates Skywards members, including those seated in Economy and Premium Economy, have access to unlimited, free messaging through apps including WhatsApp, iMessage, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Line, and Viber. In addition, they’ll be able to text during the flight without sending or receiving photos or videos.

Emirates’ decision to offer complimentary Wi-Fi access is an enticing benefit for potential Skywards members. The airline’s loyalty program has attracted a staggering 30 million travelers who have experienced the many perks and privileges it offers.

The introduction of free inflight Wi-Fi adds yet another appealing aspect to joining Skywards, providing members with the ability to stay connected during their journeys.

Connectivity Efforts

While including free Wi-Fi is a significant draw for Skywards members, there are certain conditions to consider. First, passengers wishing to take advantage of the complimentary service must ensure their flights are credited to the Skywards program. Unfortunately, this requirement may pose limitations for those who prefer to earn miles with partner airlines like United or Air Canada when traveling on Emirates flights.

Photo: Courtesy of Emirates

For individuals who are not interested in joining Skywards or do not meet the necessary criteria, Emirates offers a convenient alternative. Passengers can still access inflight Wi-Fi by purchasing connectivity at reasonable prices. The cost varies depending on the duration of the flight, with options ranging from $2.99 to $5.99 for unlimited text messaging and $9.99 to $19.99 for unrestricted internet access.

Emirates said its customers have been enthusiastic about the free connectivity and reported a 30% increase in passenger Wi-Fi usage compared to the previous year. In January, 450,000 passengers used the service. However, that still represents only 10% of Emirates travelers, although the figure rises to nearly 20% on routes to the Americas.

Photo: Courtesy of Emirates

Some travelers may be disincentivized from signing up by in-flight Wi-Fi’s notoriously glacial pace. Although Emirates claims it “has constantly been at the forefront of inflight Wi-Fi developments,” its aircraft are still using OnAir for Wi-Fi and delivering a service that’s adequate for texting but not streaming or other data-intensive tasks.

Improvements are coming, but not across Emirates’ entire fleet. Beginning next year, the carrier will take delivery of 50 Airbus A350s, equipped to deliver Inmarsat’s GX Aviation Wi-Fi, with speeds of up to 50Mbps and greater reliability.

But the existing fleet will stick with the old service, even as they undergo major retrofitting, gaining new Premium Economy cabins.