Hawaiian Airlines has signed a deal with Starlink to offer passengers inflight Wi-Fi for the first time. Credit: Hawaiian Airlines

TAMPA, Fla. — Hawaiian Airlines said April 25 it plans to offer free Starlink services on transpacific flights to and from Hawaii next year, becoming the first major airline to announce a deal with SpaceX’s high-speed broadband network.

“When we launch with Starlink we will have the best connectivity experience available in the air,” Hawaiian Airlines CEO Peter Ingram said in a statement.

The companies did not disclose broadband speeds for the proposed service, although SpaceX has said its rapidly expanding low Earth orbit network can provide inflight Wi-Fi that is indistinguishable from conventional internet access.

Many major airlines already offer inflight Wi-Fi services, and connect to satellites in geostationary orbit when flying over the oceans. 

Jonathan Hofeller, SpaceX vice president of Starlink commercial sales, said its agreement with Hawaiian Airlines makes “hassles like downloading movies before takeoff a relic of the past.”

Hawaiian Airlines does not currently offer internet access to passengers on its flights.

“We waited until technology caught up with our high standards for guest experience, but it will be worth the wait,” Ingram said

The companies plan to start installing Starlink equipment next year on Airbus A330 and A321neo aircraft, and the Hawaiian company’s incoming fleet of Boeing 787-9s, as SpaceX works toward certifying the aviation terminal it has developed.

Starlink will be offered onboard flights between the Hawaiian Islands and the continental U.S., Asia and Oceania, Hawaiian Airlines said.

There are no plans to offer the service on the Boeing 717 aircraft that the airline uses for short flights between the Islands.

The company offers daily nonstop flights between Hawaii and 16 U.S. cities, and services connecting Honolulu and American Samoa, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and Tahiti.

At the end of 2021, Hawaiian Airlines had 24 Airbus A330-200s and 18 A321s in its fleet.

The airline said in 2008 that it had ordered 10 Boeing 787-9s to be its new flagship airplane for medium to long-haul flights. Boeing had expected to start delivering the planes in 2021. 

However, amid pandemic-related supply chain challenges, publicly listed Hawaiian Airlines said in its most recent financial quarterly update that it now expects to receive its first 787s in 2023.

The Honolulu-based airline’s Starlink announcement comes days after JSX, a private jet charter company, said April 21 it reached a deal that puts it on course to be the first air carrier to offer Starlink this year.

Most of the routes the Dallas-based charter servicer operates are around the southwest of the United States.

JSX said it plans to offer Starlink broadband at no extra cost for passengers.

Delta Airlines, which like many major airlines currently charges customers for inflight connectivity, has also conducted exploratory Starlink tests on its aircraft. 

Starlink’s looming entry into inflight connectivity services adds more pressure to rivals in a market that is already seen as overcrowded, and ripe for consolidation as players grapple with high antenna installation costs.

Shares in established satellite inflight connectivity providers Viasat and Gogo have been declining since JSX signaled its Starlink plans.

Jason Rainbow writes about satellite telecom, space finance and commercial markets for SpaceNews. He has spent more than a decade covering the global space industry as a business journalist. Previously, he was Group Editor-in-Chief for Finance Information...