At the end of April, two of SIA’s all-business Airbus A340-500s had been equipped and activated with OnAir’s Wi-Fi and mobile connectivity solutions. The rest of SIA’s five-strong A340-500 fleet is expected to go live with the services by mid-year, says OnAir director of public relations and communications Aurelie Branchereau-Giles. SIA currently flies the A340-500s from Singapore to Los Angeles and New York Newark.
At least a handful of Singapore Airlines’ 17 Airbus A380s have been enabled with OnAir’s Wi-Fi solution. The aircraft fly from Singapore to Frankfurt, London Heathrow, Los Angeles, New York JFK, Paris, Tokyo-Narita, and Zurich (final government authorisation to enact the service on SIA’s Melbourne and Sydney routes is expected to come during the second half of 2012).
Meanwhile, mobile connectivity on the A380s has not yet been activated, but will be made available to passengers starting at the end of this year, according to OnAir.
Singapore Airlines also plans to fit its complete Boeing 777-300ER fleet of 19 aircraft with OnAir inflight connectivity by around April 2014.
Asked to provide an update of its connectivity equipage, a SIA spokesman says: “Currently, OnAir inflight connectivity services are available on a limited number of our A345 and A380 aircraft. There are plans to roll out the services to more aircraft. More details will be available when we officially launch the service.”
HOW TO USE THE SERVICE
To use OnAir’s Wi-Fi offering, passengers connect to the wireless access point, create an OnAir login to use the service, and provide payment details. Once approved, access should become available almost immediately.
SIA offers a user-pay subscription service for Wi-Fi, charging US$11.95 and US$29.95 for 10MB and 26MB of data usage, respectively. The subscription is good for the same flight it is purchased on, and can be used with different devices (but on the condition the same subscription login isn’t used simultaneously with any other device).
According to Charlie Pryor, public relations consultant for OnAir, “[Passengers] don’t use huge amounts of bandwidth: the most popular web sites accessed over Internet OnAir are social networking, news and travel or holiday sites.”
By contrast, charges for OnAir’s mobile connectivity service appear on passengers’ own cell phone bills. At present, rates are akin to international roaming rates, but those are expected to ultimately come down.
The Inmarsat L-band-based SwiftBroadband aeronautical service that supports all of OnAir’s current services offers speeds of up to 432 Kbps. Emirates, Qantas and a raft of other airlines are customers of OnAir, a joint venture between SITA and Airbus.
SIA is no stranger to connectivity, however. The carrier lays claim to having been the first airline in the world to introduce satellite-based inflight telephones, when it launched the service in 1991. It also previously offered Connexion by Boeing’s now-defunct Ku-band satellite-supported airborne Internet service. The carrier will again offer Ku connectivity – this time through Panasonic Avionics – when it takes delivery of its Airbus A350 XWBs.