A JSX Embraer ERJ-145LR with the SpaceX's Starlink livery. Credits: Tomás Del Coro via Flickr

Airlines’ Perspective on Adopting SpaceX’s Starlink Service Onboard

Air New Zealand joins other airlines in adopting SpaceX's Starlink for in-flight connectivity. Let's hear what fellow (and early) adopters have to say about it

Air New Zealand has revealed its intention to test the SpaceX’s Starlink broadband service on domestic flights, entering the competitive arena of connecting planes through low Earth orbit (LEO) technology, which is set to gain momentum in the coming years.

An Air new Zeland's 787-9 Dreamliner on the ground. Credits: Air New Zeland
An Air New Zeland’s 787-9 Dreamliner on the ground. Credits: Air New Zeland

SpaceX’s LEO service is slated to be integrated into two Air New Zealand planes by late 2024, embarking on an initial trial period lasting four to six months. Notably, this includes the installation of the service for the first time on a turboprop-powered ATR aircraft, marking a significant leap for Air New Zealand.

Should the trial prove successful, Air New Zealand aims to expand the deployment of Starlink to other aircraft within its domestic fleet by 2025. The airline, boasting a fleet of 105 aircraft as of October 31, with aircraft spanning from the Bombardier Q300 to the Boeing 777-300ER and Airbus A320/321 Neo, acknowledges that Starlink connectivity will grant passengers internet access akin to their home experience, featuring impressively low latency of approximately 30 milliseconds.


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What do other adopters say?

Despite SpaceX’s first-mover advantage, progress in the airline sector has been measured, with technical and regulatory challenges impeding rapid adoption.

Hawaiian Airlines and airBaltic of Latvia, though initially planning to offer Starlink services this year, have postponed their implementation to 2024.

“We completed the installation of the Starlink system on our first Airbus A321neo in October, and we are awaiting FAA certification” said to Space Voyaging Alex Da Silva, Director of External Communications at Hawaiian Airlines, “We anticipate having our first Starlink equipped aircraft in commercial operation early next year.”

We also asked airBaltic about their status with Starlink adoption and testing:

“The Latvian airline airBaltic is in regular communication with SpaceX and Airbus on the required STC (supplemental type certification) for equipping the airline’s fleet of Airbus A220-300s with Starlink in-flight internet connectivity”

said the company, which asked about the potential roll-out timing of the service replied:

“Currently, the airline expects to begin installing the product in 2024 and will share updates along the way.”

Specific details regarding the deployment of Starlink connectivity by Qatar Airways and Japan’s Zipair remain elusive.


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JSX is more than happy, and customers are too

“The Starlink service has performed flawlessly since its fleetwide installation was completed in May of 2023,”

said to Space Voyaging Ben Kaufman, Director of Marketing at JSX.

“Our Customers are in awe of the opportunities Starlink connectivity brings to the JSX experience. Whether a Customer wants to surf, stream, or even sit in on a Zoom meeting while inflight, the Starlink system proves its capability time and time again.”

We asked JSX some questions about Starlink’s Aviation service and how it’s going since the first trial, given that they were the first Air Carrirer to adopt the service.

“In post-flight Customer satisfaction surveys, the Starlink system has received a perfect score since its launch.”

When asked about support and maintenance provided by SpaceX to JSX in relation to the Starlink system, Kaufman said:

“We have a robust and collaborative relationship with SpaceX that allows us to quickly troubleshoot issues when they arise – and thanks to the diligence of SpaceX’s team, these issues are few and far between.”

A JSX Embraer ERJ-145LR with the SpaceX's Starlink livery. Credits: Tomás Del Coro via Flickr
A JSX Embraer ERJ-145LR with the SpaceX’s Starlink livery. Credits: Tomás Del Coro via Flickr

“JSX is proud to be an innovator, so partnering with SpaceX to become the global launch customer for Starlink was a natural fit. The number one complaint we got from our customers was a lack of Wi-Fi onboard, but we were determined to wait until a system robust enough to shift paradigms became available. Starlink is surely that system.

They waited, and the wait was worth it. Now JSX offers fleetwide Starlink connectivity at no extra costs:

“While network airlines continue to charge for basic connectivity, we’re proud to offer Starlink for free: an always-on platform for every JSX customer available from the moment they board, without pesky sign-in screens or credit cards.”


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As always, there’s competition…

This collaboration of Air New Zeland with Starlink stands as a notable achievement for SpaceX in the aviation sector, especially considering the impending competition from OneWeb. In fact, this company, now under the ownership of geostationary satellite operator Eutelsat, is gearing up to launch its LEO services for the aviation market in the coming year.

While SpaceX directly sells Starlink to airlines, the distribution model for OneWeb satellite services involves partnerships with Intelsat, a GEO satellite operator. Intelsat recently secured a deal to equip around 500 regional jets operated by American Airlines with an antenna capable of connecting to both GEO and OneWeb satellites in LEO. Similar agreements have been made with Alaska Airlines, Air Canada, and the latest announced Aerolineas Argentina.

OneWeb has rapidly expanded its satellite constellation to surpass 600 sat units, providing global coverage. This didn’t come without hiccups, given the past story of the company and the problems that the halting of russian-made Soyuz rockets launches have caused to them.

As savage, OneWeb called SpaceX for its launch services, using the Falcon 9 to complete the constellation, with the the first launch that was ready to go roughly a year ago, as we firstly reported.

40 OneWeb Satellites fully integrated onto dispenser inside SpaceX's Falcon 9 Cleanroom. Credits: OneWeb
40 OneWeb Satellites fully integrated onto dispenser inside SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Cleanroom. Credits: OneWeb

In contrast, SpaceX boasts a formidable fleet of over 5,000 Starlink satellites in LEO, achieved through an intensive launch campaign that slowly started more than four years ago and picked-up the cadence as the company pushed its limits on reusability and production.

The competition between OneWeb and Starlink is poised to intensify, especially after Alaska Airlines’ announcement on December 3 about its plans to acquire Hawaiian Airlines, potentially setting the stage for a significant clash between the two LEO service providers.


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Edoardo Giammarino

Edoardo Giammarino

Co-Founder & Administrator. Drummer and Red Cross Volunteer, born in 1997. I like analog photography and videomaking. Firmly music-addicted.

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