Korean Air Will Finally Adopt In-flight Wi-Fi

It was long overdue. According to ETNews, Korean Air (KE), a Skyteam member, will bring In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) to their fleets starting next year.

KE once adopted IFC more than a decade ago, with Boeing's Connexion By Boeing (CBB) Service, but as we all know CBB had failed. Ever since, KE was reluctant to adopt IFC, saying Korean people would dislike such a slower internet, as they are used to lightning-fast internet on the ground. Although it sounds weird, as a Korean, I could have agreed with them a few years ago; not anymore, as Gogo 2Ku or ViaSat solutions exhibit decent speeds.

As the article specifically mentions retrofitting, KE is likely to support IFC on their current fleets as well as the newer ones. They have 30 737 MAXs and 30 A321neos on order, and the article says 6 of the 737 MAXs will be delievered next year. It would be safe to assume that the newer airplanes may have the Wi-Fi pre-installed. They don't really have new widebody aircraft on order (literally one more 787 is left), so they might order more soon. Which means their longhaul international flights will not have Wi-Fi for a while, unless KE retrofits their fleets aggressively.

It is predicted that KE will implement in-flight Wi-Fi solutions from Gogo, which Delta Air Lines (DL) uses for their newer fleets. KE and DL currently operate a transpacific metal-neutral joint venture, so Gogo seems a good candidate. Their 2Ku product is superb and probably the fastest among longhaul international IFC. Inmarsat GX is fast enough but not as superb as 2Ku or ViaSat, and ViaSat cannot be used over the Pacific. Its rival (albeit being much smaller) Asiana Airlines, a Star Alliance member, already has Wi-Fi on their A350 fleets but relies on somewhat slower Panasonic IFC solution. (Meanwhile, Asiana A350 Wi-Fi seemed to be faster than other Panasonic solutions according to my speedtest.)

I really hope KE to retrofit their fleets at a fast pace and to have more Wi-Fi-enabled fleets (especially widebodies) than Asiana, which will only have 10 airplanes with Wi-Fi at the end of 2019. But I am doubtful about it.

Speedtest: Left is from Gogo 2Ku on Delta flight and right is from Panasonic on Asiana flight.


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