British Airways will soon offer its passengers Wi-Fi internet access on its short-haul flights from 2017, its parent company IAG has announced. IAG said that the service would be available to passengers travelling on British Airways flights beginning next summer while its other airlines including Aer Lingus, Iberia and Vueling will provide the service later in 2017.
IAG said it has signed a deal with satellite communications company Inmarsat, which will offer 4G broadband network and provide customers "the internet access they expect on the ground while in the air." Around 341 of its planes will be fitted with the Wi-Fi technology. This includes 132 British Airways, 125 Vueling, 45 Iberia and 39 Aer Lingus A320 family aircraft, IAG said.
"Having announced Wi-Fi for longhaul flights earlier this year we are now equipping our airlines' shorthaul fleets with inflight broadband access," IAG chief executive Willie Walsh said in a statement. "Connectivity is essential because it's what our customers demand and IAG will be the first European airline group to offer high-quality air to ground Wi-Fi on shorthaul flights."
IAG's first short-haul aircraft equipped with Wi-Fi will be a British Airways A321 that will be in service next summer. By 2019, 90% of IAG airlines' fleets will be fitted with Wi-Fi, the company said.
Each airline brand will decide on whether to charge passengers a fee to access the service, the company told the BBC.
In May, IAG announced plans to bring high-speed in-flight connectivity to most of its long-haul flights across British Airways, Aer Lingue and Iberia next year. The technology called 2Ku, provided by Chicago-based aircraft communications firm Gogo, claims to provide up to 70Mbps internet speeds during the flight.
Other rival airlines are already providing in-flight Wi-Fi. In October, Lufthansa rolled out satellite-based broadband on board its short-haul flights and has already been offering internet connectivity onboard its long-haul flights as well. Norwegian Airlines also offers in-flight Wi-Fi as well.