Aer Lingus offers a new connection: wifi on my transatlantic flight

The price is a bit steep, the service can be patchy but nothing kills time like the web

Aer Lingus’s wifi is limited to flights between Ireland and the US on its Airbus A330 aircraft, though the airline says it is coming to European flights too.

Aer Lingus’s wifi is limited to flights between Ireland and the US on its Airbus A330 aircraft, though the airline says it is coming to European flights too.

Thu, Jun 19, 2014, 01:00

The idea of wifi in the sky has its appeal. The bleary eyed among us, oh we of little sleep, all know how internet time flies when you just have one more comment to add to a Facebook discussion. What better place to make time fly than when you are actually flying, in the enforced tedium of turbulence, cramped seats and crying babies?

I’ve used the GoGo service in the US on several airlines. In general, it works reasonably well. Not as good as on land and it tends to get worse the more people are using it. Still, very handy for passing time, doing some work and catching up on social media.

But, until recently, wifi was not available on the one section of a trip where you might most want the distraction (or work capability) – that boring segment over the oceans when there’s not much to see unless you have a window seat and cross Greenland, with its spectacular scenery, in the daytime.

Transatlantic wireless

The Aer Lingus wifi service is one of a smallish number now offered on transatlantic flights. It uses the Panasonic Avionics system, in tandem with Aeromobile and Deutsche Telekom, and is limited to flights between Ireland and the US on Aer Lingus’s Airbus A330 aircraft, though the airline says it is coming to European flights too.

You can also switch on your mobile phone to send and receive text messages or email, use the web and so on but, thankfully, not to make calls. For this act of mercy, I am truly grateful.

GSM mobile connectivity is available to anyone for free, but you’ll pay roaming charges for sending texts or using the web. And after all the times you’ve been told to keep your phone off for a flight, you’ll probably, like me, feel sneaky and guilty turning it on. As for wifi, Premier class gets it for free and steerage pays €10.95 an hour or €19.95 for the flight, inclusive of VAT.

Yes, ouch, and not many are going to opt for the hourly rate instead of the full flight, under that tariff model.

The (claimed) connection is reasonable, if nothing to write home about (still, better than some Irish homes) – 5MB receiving and 1MB sending. In reality, it was definitely slower than that.

The service is also temperamental, if my Aer Lingus direct flight to San Francisco is anything to go by. First off, we were well into the flight before it was available at all. Then it came on but kept dropping, an issue one passenger near me raised with a flight attendant.

Apparently the good folks up in Premier were using it, so I’m not sure if the problem was in both areas or just down the back. But it eventually stabilised with only occasional, annoying disconnections.

Tweeting at 30,000 feet

I couldn’t tweet over the wifi using Tweetdeck on my MacBook Air or the Twitter app on my iPhone ( I could through a browser) yet I was able to connect to a live stream of a furniture auction in Bray and see that I’d won some items I’d put in advance bids for – though it was decidedly strange to look out the window over Greenland while finding I got the Georgian table mirror as well as the odd-lot of old copper pots and kettles.

The wifi connection didn’t update my Facebook newsfeed for a couple of hours, although my posts and comments went straight up. Then, suddenly, the newsfeed was working. Go figure.

I also couldn’t send any email from my mail app, a problem easily addressed by going to webmail in the browser, but irritating nonetheless.

The economy class service definitely does seem of interest. Three other people within two rows of me were using wifi. Not many were on phones, but that may be because people don’t realise they can use them.

Is it worth it? Well, yes, if you either need an internet connection for work, or depend on it for play. I found it ate up the time. If you aren’t in the mood for movies, chat or reading, you’ll find the hours passing at your standard surfing pace but you’ll likely feel you have to stay online for the duration of the flight at those prices.

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