WiFi is becoming a huge driver of passenger loyalty on flights. Many airlines are introducing WiFi onto their fleets in response to this. British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are both in the process of breaking in their first Airbus A350s. These both have WiFi, however, we thought we’d see which airline offers the most aircraft with WiFi available.
According to Inmarsat, WiFi is becoming increasingly important to retain customers. Their 2018 survey showed that 67% of passengers would be likely to rebook with an airline if WiFi were available on the flight. With this figure jumping to 83% when only Business Class passengers are considered, it seems high time to compare both airlines’ WiFi availabilities.
British Airways short-haul fleet
British Airways is currently in the process of rolling out WiFi on both its long-haul and short-haul fleet. Let us start with the short-haul fleet. My interest in BA’s WiFi rollout progress was sparked when I was able to use WiFi in both directions heading to and from Frankfurt recently. While it may seem like a mammoth task to list every aircraft with WiFi, somebody has accomplished the feat over at the FlyerTalk Forum.
Currently, only around 30% of British Airways’ short-haul fleet is equipped with WiFi connections. This includes three Airbus A319s, 34 Airbus A320s, four Airbus A320neos, and six Airbus A321s. The full list of registrations is available on the previously mentioned FlyerTalk thread.
British Airways long-haul fleet
Things are going much better with the WiFi roll out on British Airways’ long-haul fleet. In fact, 64% of the airline’s long-distance fleet now has WiFi enabled. This, surprisingly, does not include G-EUNA, the Airbus A318 used for BA’s premium London City to New York service.
All of British Airways’ Airbus A350-1000 aircraft are being delivered with WiFi capability from the factory in Toulouse. Eight out of twelve Airbus A380s have WiFi capabilities. However, only 17 out of 33 Boeing 747s have WiFi. FlyerTalk claims the remaining aircraft will not have WiFi fitted.
Things get slightly better when considering the Boeing 777 fleet. Out of 58 aircraft, an astonishing 51 have been fitted with WiFi. This includes the two Boeing 777s due to receive the new Club Suites cabin by the end of the year.
Finally, things aren’t currently looking as peachy with the Boeing 787 fleet. None of the carrier’s 12 Boeing 787-8 aircraft is WiFi-enabled. However, half of the 18 Boeing 787-9 aircraft in the British Airways fleet do have WiFi functionality. As a result, overall only 48% of the British Airways fleet has WiFi. Let’s take a Look At Virgin Atlantic:
Virgin Atlantic fleet
As Virgin Atlantic only operate long-haul aircraft, we only need to look at the airline’s long haul fleet. According to PlaneSpotters, the airline has 45 aircraft in its fleet. This consists of 14 Airbus A330s, five Airbus A340s, one Airbus A350, eight Boeing 747s, and 17 Boeing 787s.
Of these, 44 aircraft have WiFi capabilities. The airline states that one Airbus A340 is not equipped with WiFi. This means that 98% of Virgin Atlantic’s aircraft are WiFi equipped. However, with the Virgin Airbus A340 fleet on its way to retirement, this will soon be 100%.
Both airlines technically win the WiFi availability challenge for different reasons, however, in our opinion, Virgin is the overall winner. British Airways wins with the most aircraft with WiFi fitted. In fact, the airline has more Boeing 777 aircraft fitted with WiFi than Virgin has aircraft.
However, Virgin quite clearly wins based on the likelihood of a passenger being on an aircraft with WiFi. With 98% of its fleet being WiFi-equipped, passengers are almost certain to be on a WiFi-enabled aircraft and are simply unlucky if not.
Would WiFi availability steer you towards one carrier or another? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.