Alaska Airlines Plans Streaming-fast Satellite WiFi

Alaska Airlines Plans Streaming-fast Satellite WiFi

DALLAS — Alaska Airlines (AS) will install satellite WiFi systems, giving travelers access to inflight WiFi no matter what aircraft they are flying. The news comes as the carrier is almost done installing WiFi on every aircraft in its mainline fleet and expects that every passenger flying on AS will have WiFi regardless of the aircraft in four years. 

The Seattle-based carrier has partnered with Intelsat, which will use an electronically steered array (ESA), and a small, lightweight antenna. This system will allow aircraft to connect to low-Earth orbit satellites (LEO) and traditional geostationary satellites (GEO).

The connections will allow AS to provide travelers with faster and more reliable internet connections. The project will cost the airline $25m and will enable higher internet speeds and more coverage in the air, specifically over Alaska. 

Throughout the past ten years, inflight WiFi has become a regular feature for passengers. With the high customer demand for inflight WiFi, airlines have invested millions of dollars in providing WiFi on their aircraft. These investments have focused mainly on the mainline fleets of airlines, specifically their largest aircraft that fly the most lucrative routes.

N189SY, Alaska Airlines (SkyWest) Embraer E175. Photo: Michael Rodeback/Airways

WiFi on US Regional Airlines

The largest carriers in the United States: American, United, Delta, and Alaska, partner with regional airlines to operate flights with smaller demand on their behalf to smaller airports on small planes. Although these airlines have installed WiFi on their mainline fleets, it has not been transferred to their regional fleets. As such, regional airlines do not have adequate funding to install WiFi on their aircraft leading passengers to book a flight with a major airline, and the flight will not have inflight WiFi. 

Alaska will be the first global airline to offer its regional aircraft fleet high-speed connectivity. The new system will debut in early 2024 on Horizon Air, a regional airline that only operates on behalf of Alaska Airlines. Alaska also plans to add WiFi to its other regional airline partner, SkyWest Airlines, over two years. According to the airline, by 2026, Alaska will have consistent fast streaming WiFi across its entire fleet. 

Sangita Woerner, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Guest Experience at Alaska Airlines, commented, “Bringing a streaming-fast satellite WiFi solution to our regional jets is another key investment in modernizing our fleet, emphasizing innovation and taking care of our guests’ changing needs.”

She added, “With the growth in remote work, we know staying connected at 34,000 feet is more important than ever. Intelsat’s new system will give our guests the peace of mind that no matter whether it’s a short flight or a longer journey, there will be reliable, affordable, and convenient WiFi. It’s just another way we show care in the air.”

Featured image: Alaska Airlines (Horizon Air) N628QX Embraer E175. Photo: Daniel Gorun/Airways

Joshua Kupietzky has a passion for aviation and deep expertise in the aviation industry. He’s been enamored with the facts and figures of the airline industry, and the details of the make and model of commercial aircraft for as long as he can remember. Based in Chicago, US. Follow him on Instagram @jbkaviation

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