The skies are going to get friendlier and faster. Hawaiian Airlines signed a deal with the Starlink satellite division to bring internet on flights.
Travelers will get access to free in-flight wi-fi as part of the deal, but financial terms were not disclosed.
Both Viasat and Intelsat offer in-flight internet access, but Starlink would compete against them.
The Starlink service, at least through the partnership with Hawaiian, won't cost extra for flyers with the airline. For one hour of internet service, for example, you can get a Gogo pass for $7, while an all-day pass with Delta Airlines costs as much as $28.
Delta is also looking at a deal with SpaceX, which would move the airliner away from its current partnerships. The trial of Starlink internet on select routes was announced by Delta. The Wall Street Journal reported that Delta CEO Ed Bastian was a critic of internet service on flights. If the trial of the airliner is a success, the Starlink-powered service could help him reach his goal.
While Starlink is looking to increase its footprint in the air, its rivals are already working to improve their equipment or switch to new technologies that would help increase speeds or reliability. Delta's partner, Gogo, used a network of antennas to beam signals up to the sky.
A next-gen satellite system is being worked on by the company, as it believes that signals can be blocked by trees or tall buildings. The company intends on using its network as a backup service. Viasat is working on launching new satellites.
In addition to commercial airliners, Starlink had previously announced a similar deal. Starlink competes against other providers to bring satellite internet into the home of those who don't fly. The company expects to enroll more than 40 million subscribers by the year 2025. The FCC is currently considering Starlink's request to deploy another 30,000 satellites.
The company's recent efforts to turn on satellite service in Ukraine to help the country access the internet during its war with Russia had enabled it to enjoy some goodwill, but some of that was lost after the price hikes were announced.
Starlink's in-flight service has not been revealed, but the company promises speeds of at least 200Mbps for home users. In the air, Gogo's satellite network delivers speeds of approximately 15Mbps.
Federal Aviation Administration approval is required for any equipment used to connect an aircraft to a satellite. FCC has given permission for Starlink to test its equipment on airliners. The equipment from Starlink will be on select aircraft by next year according to Hawaiian Airlines.
More people will be able to use the internet on flights if it's faster than your home broadband service. One day, you will be able to stream your favorite shows from the sky. Even if Starlink doesn't expand beyond a few airliners, the company's aggressive presence in the space could force rivals to innovate and deliver better in-flight service.