Emirates Will Start Pricing For Their WiFi (With A Catch)

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While Emirates has long been on my bucket list, I haven’t found the chance to fly them yet (though worry not, I’m currently planning a series of trips and Emirates is one of the airlines involved in my planning). Some of my friends have flown Emirates extensively, and have reported back with positive thoughts – the experience seems like one that’s fun and “blinged” out, if not very polished.

0-weu-d3-4638819b7e3405970ad0c62d88c66fe2Emirates Airbus A380-800 Business Class

One amenity that Emirates offers is probably the cheapest paid WiFi across any airline – they used to give everyone 10 MB of free WiFi, then 500 MB of paid WiFi for US$1 after that. I suspect I’d still use up US$20-30 on a long flight if WiFi worked at a speed I was happy with, but you never know (however, reports are that speeds are rather slow, since everyone is using it). That’s changing.

Emirates is now offering WiFi priced by usage onboard their planes. While on the surface that seems unfortunate, it also means WiFi on their planes will finally be usable to some extent (since onboard WiFi is limited to a specific bandwidth, free WiFi is just going to be really slow, as everyone is using it).

img_2580Emirates Airbus A380-800 Taipei Taoyuan Airport

The first 10 MB will remain free, but if you’re a social media-savvy person like I am, 10 MB will last around four minutes.

In theory, their WiFi after that will be priced the same for all cabins, at US$9.99 for 150 MB and US$15.99 for 500 MB. I’m a big fan of WiFi priced by time (for example, Lufthansa offers unlimited WiFi for 24 hours at US$18, which I found really useful on my flight with them back in February), though I get that WiFi charged by usage is a business decision from Emirates, and I respect that.

Emirates has also come up with a justification of their decision to add a price point to their WiFi (in my opinion this comes across as BS, as it doesn’t address the biggest issue of how slow internet speed can get in the air when everyone is using it):

Our Wi-Fi is amazing value, and customers can still connect for free for up to two hours.

Getting Wi-Fi in the air is expensive, and within the limits of today’s technology, connecting isn’t easy. We’ve invested a huge amount in equipping our aircraft. So we’ll start charging customers a relatively small amount towards the service.

The charges don’t actually cover our investment, but they will go some way towards the cost of providing the service and help us to roll it out across our fleet for more customers to enjoy.

According to one of the most reliable (and talented!) bloggers I know at One Mile At A Time, this plan will be implemented on June 16th.

There’s a catch to this…

Emirates says that first and business class Skywards members will receive unlimited free WiFi onboard their flights. Non-Skywards members will have to go through the same prices – I think the prices are rather lenient compared to other usage-based onboard WiFi prices out there (Swiss charges their passengers ~US$40 for 150 MB of WiFi), but WiFi can still be rather pricey dependent on how much you use the internet on your flight.

However, signing up for Skywards is free. So if you don’t have a Skywards account and plan to fly Emirates in first or business class in the future, you absolutely should sign up for a Skywards account in the near future.

Bottom Line

This is ultimately good news to Emirates’ first and business class passengers who come across this news in time, and bad news to economy class passengers and premium cabin passengers who don’t. I still hope to book myself in Emirates business class in the near future, but for those who have flights in Emirates’ business class, I recommend you sign up for a Skywards account ASAP, even if you don’t plan to credit your miles there.

Is anyone flying Emirates in a premium cabin soon?

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