Emirates is reporting some interesting numbers, after rolling out some level of free in-flight connectivity on its fleet.
According to the airline, the increase in free connectivity has been very well received by Emirates passengers following changes in January 2023, with an average of 450,000 users per month. This represents a 30% increase in passenger use in 2023 versus the same period last year.
Currently, almost 10% of all passengers are utilising the complimentary onboard Wi-Fi. On routes through the Americas, almost 20% of passengers connect to Wi-Fi onboard, and on European and African routes the usage is over 11% of all passengers.
Access to services
You need to be an Emirates Skyward member to access “free” tiers of connectivity.
Skywards members, whether Blue, Silver, Gold, or Platinum tier, travelling in any class, whether Economy, Premium Economy, Business or First Class can use free app messaging.
Additionally, First Class passengers will have unlimited free internet if they are Skywards members, as well as Silver, Gold and Platinum Skywards members travelling in Business Class.
Platinum Skywards members have complimentary internet access in all classes.
You will need to ensure your Skywards membership number is in your booking (or have joined Skywards) 24 hours before departure to avail yourself of these features.
Paid access tiers are also available – see https://www.emirates.com/uk/english/experience/inflight-entertainment/onboard-wifi/.
Patrick Brannelly, SVP of Retail, IFE & Connectivity for Emirates, commented:
“Emirates has persistently worked with our service providers to optimise and improve the connectivity experience. In March we delivered about 55% more data per customer session compared to early 2022 despite the number of sessions increasing by 68% in the same period. We will continue to work to invest in upgrades and enhancements, and our A350 aircraft will arrive with the next generation of satellite connectivity already equipped.”
Interesting uptakes numbers
When the price is “free” (and I use that term in brackets – nothing is ever truly free), it enables people to take advantage of a service they may have not considered before.
The use of tiers and classes does make sense – as it creates the natural bottlenecks so a system doesn’t fall over with everyone jumping on the airline’s Wi-Fi connectivity and flooding the network (although paid options exist for those who need full-fat connectivity, and not just messaging connectivity – varying between US$9.99 and $19.99 depending on the flight length).
In some ways, I’m not surprised how the numbers are playing on routes – US Markets have long since developed inflight Wi-Fi markets, with an expectation for it to be present – and that shows in the 20% uptake, whilst other markets are still getting used to the idea of it.
But as airlines seek to digitise more of the flying experience, connectivity will soon be the norm, rather than not.
At least for now, there’s always the option to put a device into airplane mode, lean back and fall asleep and not be married to a screen for a flight.
That’s something to be welcomed.
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