British Airways claims it will provide the fastest Wi-Fi internet connections on long-haul flights by retro-fitting next generation satellite technology on 118 aircraft.
A deal struck between the airline’s parent International Airlines Group and technology firm Gogo will see the new technology introduced from next year.
The deal could cost BA about £250,000 per aircraft – or a total of more than £30 million, the Daily Telegraph reported.
The service is likely to be free to passengers in a basic form, with fees charged for premium services and connections, although the final details are still being worked out.
BA only has Wi-Fi available on three of its aircraft. Delta Airlines, which owns 49% of Virgin Atlantic, and some other airlines have inked similar deals with Gogo, although they each make different claims about the specifications of their service.
IAG chief executive, Willie Walsh, said: “We believe this will be the best Wi-Fi on international flights anywhere. This will be exactly as if you’re connected to Wi-Fi in your house.
“We’ll be able to have everybody on board using multiple devices and we’re going to get speeds that are similar to you being at home. That’s why we wanted this. There’s nothing more frustrating than if you’re a passenger and you’re told it’s there but you’re sitting there waiting for your screen to refresh.
“It just becomes more irritating than not having it and some of the early technology we just felt was not something we could offer our customers and convince them that it was going to work consistently.”
The most dramatic change could be the availability of streaming and internet voice services. Some airlines currently have the capacity to offer voice-over-internet calls, but choose to block it for security reasons. BA has not yet decided its approach on this issue.
Showcasing the technology on a special service put on in San Jose at the launch of BA’s new direct flight from Heathrow to the tenth largest city in the US, demonstrations of Netflix videos were shown in flight.