Opinion

Wi-Fi on planes: Are we ready for it?

A sceptic embraces inflight Wi-Fi

I remember a time, not at all long ago, when the idea of Wi-Fi and mobile connectivity on planes gave me the chills. And I certainly wasn’t alone. The ruination of the last safe haven from the beeps and vibration of the smartphone was hardly something to look forward to. The notion that one couldn’t take any kind of break, even in the skies, from the preying eyes of the office or the incessant flow of social media was a bridge too far for most of us busy people to bear.

But following a set of recent flights on Wi-Fi-enabled aircraft and the announcement late last year that our very own Cathay Dragon and Cathay Pacific will introduce the technology on their B777 and A330 fleets from the middle of this year (following the well-received installation on new A350-900 aircraft), I have been forced to reflect on my original views on the subject.

Like it or not, Wi-Fi in the skies is simply an inevitability. A decent proportion of modern planes have internet connectivity already and in five to 10 years almost all will. This means we have a choice to make. While we are still at that cultural point where it would be acceptable for me to ignore the office, kick back with a glass of wine and watch a film without apology, I find that – gasp! – I actually rather like staying connected while flying.

On shorter flights, during the day, Wi-Fi enables flyers to stay in touch and be sporadically productive, even those who try not to work on planes. And on longer flights it removes the awful, sinking feeling of landing and finding hundreds of messages in one’s inbox, with whatever catastrophes attached.

But, while I’ve done an about-face on connectivity on planes, I still see room for improvement. I would like to see inflight Wi-Fi become like inflight entertainment: included in the cost of the ticket rather than requiring a fee. Making Wi-Fi free for all would also eliminate the several minutes of irritation it takes to pay for it and log on. But I would say the main issues are speed and quality (plus satellite coverage over the oceans). The difference between Wi-Fi service on the ground and in the skies is still eminently understandable but also a source of immense frustration.

In this vein, I was excited to hear that Cathay Dragon and Cathay Pacific will adopt Gogo’s new 2Ku satellite-based broadband inflight connectivity, which promises a faster and higher-quality service. Having somewhat grudgingly accepted and welcomed inflight connectivity, I now want speed, streaming, the whole shebang, everything and more.

Contact cathayeditorial@cedarcom.hk to share your thoughts on Wi-Fi in the sky

By the Anonymous Global Nomad

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Flights taken: 13

Miles travelled‭: 23,487

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