Reports have emerged over the weekend that Emirates will no longer offer free WiFi nor live TV onboard. The changes were noticed as these options have disappeared from the airline’s website. As airlines around the world search for ways to reduce costs and reduce their rate of cash burn, we’ve seen a lot of news around job cuts. While a bit of a surprise to us coming from Emirates, this change is very much in line with the broader industry trend of cost-cutting.
No more complimentary WiFi
Previously, all passengers received free, limited WiFi. While the connection was known to be rather slow, it still offered economy passengers a way to connect to basic messaging services with a limit of 20mb. Even those with a pricey first or business class ticket aren’t immune to the changes. This cut applies to passengers in all classes with the airline stating, “Pricing and packages vary by route” on their website.
Another minor @emirates in-flight service cut. Emirates has removed the two free hours of messaging or 20 MB of free data for economy passengers and free in-flight Wi-Fi for Skywards elites and business/first-class passengers. Now, all passengers have to pay for Wi-Fi access. pic.twitter.com/eesedLaGK9
— JT Genter (@JTGenter) May 16, 2020
Previously, complimentary unlimited WiFi was available to all first and business class passengers as well as those in economy class who held Gold and Platinum status with Emirates’ Skywards loyalty program.
No more live TV
In addition to the loss of free WiFi, passengers will also be losing access to live TV as part of the Emirates inflight entertainment system – ICE. While the airline’s live TV webpage still shows up on search engine results, clicking on the link will lead you to the site with a notice that says the page cannot be found.
While Emirates will hopefully still have a decent selection of TV shows and movies, the loss of live TV will probably hit sports fans and business travelers the most. Of course, with the former group, there isn’t much being offered in terms of live sports at the moment anyway.
An Emirates spokesperson provided the following statement:
“This pandemic has disrupted many business models, including for airlines and satellite and data providers. When Emirates was flying a full fleet we were able to purchase data in bulk, which made offering a free WiFi service feasible even though the airline still subsidised the service with millions of dollars every year.
“Live TV was hugely popular on Emirates’ ice, with sport being the greatest attraction. The service comes with significant data and licensing costs, but we invested in it as part of overall our inflight customer experience. With fewer global sporting events at the moment, LiveTV has much reduced value. Our customers can keep up to date with the news headlines either via their mobile phone data roaming or via a WiFi package. Like all airlines, we’ve had to adapt our inflight offering to the current situation, but we are monitoring developments closely and look forward to resuming these popular services when practicable.”
Few people affected in the short term
While this is bound to upset more than a few people, the relative number will be low, considering Emirates’ service is so limited at the moment. Indeed, those taking to the air right now are likely traveling out of necessity and not for leisure or family visits. The airline actually still doesn’t have regularly scheduled operations.
However, we did see the airline announce that it would resume service to several destinations last week. The carrier will now offer conditional passenger service to select cities in Australia, Europe, and North America. Services to the following cities will begin next Thursday:
- London Heathrow
Of course, with strict travel restrictions still in place for Australia, the United States, Canada, and much of Europe, most passengers flying will be heading back to their respective home countries.
As airlines make cuts to their workforces, it’s not too surprising that cuts to inflight service are taking place as well. At first, many inflight services were cut for health and safety reasons (meals, hot towel service). However, Emirates may just be one of the first airlines to start the wider trend of eliminating other nice extras we’ve become accustomed to.
Do you think more airlines will follow Emirates and cut complimentary WiFi services? Let us know in the comments!
We contacted Emirates requesting a statement. However, no response was received at time of publication.