Emirates has predicted that in-flight Wi-Fi will be offered free-of-charge as standard in future.
The airline’s president, Sir Tim Clark, said that technological limitations are currently hindering the roll-out of free Wi-Fi, but added that he expects this to change in future.
“We’ve always viewed Wi-Fi as a service and a value-added part of Emirates’ overall product, rather than a revenue stream," said Clark.
“If we can offer good quality Wi-Fi connections for everyone onboard at no charge tomorrow, we will do it. But we face a slew of technical limitations, from speed and bandwidth availability and cost, to the supporting hardware and software, all of which we are working hard to address with the industry right now.
“Ultimately, we believe that onboard Wi-Fi will become a free service, and a standard that customers will expect on a full service airline, just like onboard refreshments and personal in-flight entertainment. Emirates is leading the way on this, and we are working closely with our suppliers and various stakeholders towards this vision," he added.
Emirates now offers Wi-Fi onboard all of its 53 Airbus A380s and on 28 Boeing 777s. The airline also said it is undertaking “an aggressive retrofit programme" that will eventually see its entire fleet Wi-Fi enabled.
Since its introduction, in-flight Wi-Fi has been criticised for being both unreliable and expensive. But technological advancements are occurring rapidly, with the goal of offering connectivity comparable to ground-based broadband networks.
Thailand’s Nok Air recently became the first airline to start offering free in-flight Wi-Fi, rolling out complimentary connectivity on some of its domestic Boeing 737s.
And Emirates noted that it experienced a 200% spike in Wi-Fi usage in the month of October 2014, due to a free Wi-Fi promotion to mark the Eid holidays.