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Hawaiian Airlines Launches Complimentary Starlink High-Speed Wi-Fi

The SpaceX-powered high-speed Wi-Fi is now operating on six Hawaiian aircraft with more to follow this year

by Lauren Smith

February 12, 2024

Photo: Courtesy of Hawaiian Airlines

Passengers aboard select Hawaiian Airlines flights can now enjoy free high-speed Wi-Fi, even on long-haul journeys across the Pacific, thanks to the airline’s pioneering satellite internet technology powered by SpaceX’s Starlink.

The cutting-edge technology is already available on six Airbus A321neos, and the first flight to offer the service flew between Honolulu (HNL) and Long Beach, California (LGB) on February 9, to rave reviews.

Photo: Courtesy of Christian Brinkmann / Airbus

With the technology set to be rolled out to a further 12 A321s and 24 A330s by the end of the year, passengers can look forward to seamless, uninterrupted connectivity during their journey.

Hawaiian will also install Starlink aviation terminals on its new flagship airline, the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, as the jets are delivered between now and 2027.

Once activated, Starlink terminals will provide passengers with satellite internet from the moment they step on the plane, with no need for registration or payment.

Photo: Airbus A321neo, First Class. Courtesy of Hawaiian Airlines

Starlink delivers connectivity through a network of more than 5,000 satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO), 65 times closer to the ground than conventional geostationary satellites. That means high speeds, comparable to Wi-Fi connections on the ground, and low latency.

“We have incredible amounts of capacity and bandwidth that we can bring to the plane,” Chad Gibbs, vice president of Starlink business operations at SpaceX, told CNBC.

During trials of the service on Hawaiian flights, “employees streamed shows and movies, played video games with friends, downloaded and uploaded large files, worked in real-time, and scrolled on social media,” said Chris Liebertz, senior director of engineering at Hawaiian Airlines.

Starlink’s technology also delivers reliable connections throughout Hawaiian’s ocean-spanning network, where internet connectivity has previously been impossible. The airline hasn’t previously offered in-flight Wi-Fi.

Photo: Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Courtesy of Hawaiian Airlines

“Starlink’s self-designed aviation terminal installed on Hawaiian’s aircraft allows each plane to receive strong, fast internet signals from the satellites orbiting above Earth,” explained Will Seidel, director of Starlink engineering at SpaceX.

“The terminal will seamlessly switch connections from satellite to satellite as planes cross the Pacific, providing an uninterrupted internet experience for passengers.”

“It really feels like an experience that should not be possible when you get on a commercial airline flight,” SpaceX’s Gibbs said.

Hawaiian announced its deal with SpaceX in April 2022, becoming the first major airline to partner with Elon Musk’s astronautics company. However, the technology rollout, initially scheduled for 2023, was delayed while SpaceX produced its next-generation Starlink satellites, and Hawaiian sought clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the terminals.

Other Airlines with Starlink-powered WiFi

While Hawaiian is the first U.S. airline to partner with SpaceX, several other global airlines have also signed deals with the $180 billion company.

Latvia’s AirBaltic recently announced its installation of Starlink terminals, initially scheduled for 2023, but it has been postponed until 2024 while the carrier awaits certification for the technology from regulators.

Photo: Courtesy of airBaltic

Japan’s Zipair Tokyo is seeking similar authorization and says its Starlink connections will be switched on in “2024 and beyond.”

Qatar Airways is the largest carrier yet to partner with SpaceX, but neither company has provided a timeline for the service launch.

Meanwhile, later this year, Air New Zealand will trial free Starlink internet onboard two planes—an ATR turbo-propellor aircraft and an A320—flying domestic routes.