In-flight Wi-Fi has a reputation for being painfully slow and overpriced, but JetBlue says its new Wi-Fi service is both fast and free.
As of this week, JetBlue’s “Fly-Fi” satellite Internet service is installed on all 150 Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft. The airline aims to install Fly-Fi on 60 E190 planes—the rest of its fleet—by the end of 2016.
JetBlue, which has partnered with Internet provider ViaSat, claims it will offer “up to” 20 Mbps per device. The company specifically says it can handle video streaming, and will let passengers use multiple devices at the same time. In the past, JetBlue has offered free Wi-Fi for basic Internet browsing only, and charged $9 per hour for faster access.
JetBlue also says it’s partnering with Amazon to offer video service for Amazon Prime subscribers at no extra charge. This will allow passengers to stream video on JetBlue’s seatback entertainment systems as well as on their personal devices, USA Today has reported.
The expansion of JetBlue’s Internet service comes amid an industry-wide push to improve in-flight Wi-Fi. In July, Virgin America announced its own partnership with ViaSat to offer faster Wi-Fi, and began equipping planes last month. (Virgin plans to charge for the service starting next year.) Gogo, whose ground-based Internet service is largely to blame for in-flight Wi-Fi’s shoddy reputation, is rolling out several speed improvements this year, and is considering satellite service as a supplement.
Why this matters: Given the spotty history of in-flight Wi-Fi—and the inevitable hordes of people that will be using JetBlue’s service—the airline’s claim of smooth streaming at 20 Mbps deserves a dose of skepticism. Still, it’s a step up from the status quo, in which users are told not to stream anything at all. As more people rely on streaming for their video entertainment, it’s encouraging to see JetBlue moving in the same direction.