Norwegian Begins To Roll Out Wi-Fi On Long-Haul Flights…And It’s Free!

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Norwegian already offers free wi-fi on the majority of its short-haul routes and now the airline has announced that it has commenced the roll out of its wi-fi service on its 787-9 Dreamliners and on its Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.

The airline took delivery of its first wi-fi equipped Dreamliner on 18 December last year and, with this aircraft now in service, flyers can start enjoying inflight wi-fi on Norwegian long-haul with immediate effect.

The airline is offering two tiers of service on its wi-fi equipped aircraft and passengers will have a choice between a free option and a premium option.

a cell phone with a screen on

Norwegian In-Flight Wi-Fi Basic Option (Free)

Per Norwegian:

The Basic option is free and will allow customers to browse the web, stay-up-to-date on social media, send and receive emails and instant messages with friends, family and colleagues by using their personal mobile phones, tablets and laptops on board for the full length of the flight.

On the face of things it’s fantastic that Norwegian plans to offer a free wi-fi option onboard but I fear for the quality of service.

Some of Norwegian’s 787 Dreamliners can carry up to 350 passengers and, with air travel being less than riveting, it’s a fair assumption to make that most passengers will probably log on to the wi-fi network for significant periods of the journey – will the bandwidth of the free service be able come with the demand?

Having free wi-fi is great but only as far as it remains frustration free and usable – it will be interesting to read the reports as this service gets tested in real-world situations over the coming months.

Norwegian In-Flight Wi-Fi Premium Option (Paid)

Per Norwegian:

Fast enough to stream music, movies and television shows on Netflix, YouTube and Hulu among others, Norwegian will offer passengers a Premium high-speed Wi-Fi option.

Premium high-speed Wi-Fi will be available at an introductory price of $14.95 USD / €12.95 EUR for a three-hour package.Customers can select their preferred currency when choosing the Wi-Fi package.

I haven’t had the opportunity to try out the wi-fi on any aircraft that claims to offer a service where streaming is a legitimate proposition but, at $5 an hour (and that’s just the introductory price), Norwegian’s service had better be good!

On the positive side of things at least the airline hasn’t added a data cap to its premium offering and, with prices as high as this, it’s unlikely that there will be too many people using the service to cause issues.

a pair of earbuds on a keyboard

Norwegian Wi-Fi Roll Out

Norwegian appears to be taking a British Airways approach to its wi-fi roll out in that there doesn’t appear to be any urgency here.

The airline has said that “more than 50%” of its Dreamliners will offer wi-fi by 2020 (so nearly half the wide-body fleet will still be wi-fi free by 2020) and that the roll out of wi-fi on the 737 MAX aircraft will “commence from mid-January 2019” (no end date has been offered).

Final Thoughts

The success of Norwegian’s wi-fi offerings will depend on how robust the service is and how much real value it offers.

If Norwegian’s free service actually works (despite high user numbers) it will be great news for travelers used to paying $19 on American (for the duration of the flight) or $19 on Virgin Atlantic (for as little as 150Mb) where the service can be highly unreliable.

a screenshot of a sign in

If, on the other hand, the free service doesn’t have enough bandwidth to cope with demand it will rapidly become pointless and flyers will be left with just the expensive Premium option if they really need to get online.

It’s wait-and-see time now but I have my fingers crossed that Norwegian is on to a good thing here – if the low-cost carrier can make free wi-fi work it may finally force the legacy airlines to cut their fees on their lower performing offerings or, better still, upgrade them to the point where reliability is no longer an issue…..wouldn’t that be nice? 🙂