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British Airways is gearing up for the official launch of WiFi on its short-range flights within the UK and Europe, but passengers on some flights are already logging onto the inflight Internet service – and getting a taste of what's in store when the airline flicks the switch towards the middle of this year.
BA plans to have the technology installed across most of its single-aisle Airbus jets by mid-2019. At least half of those jets are already believed to have been upgraded, and a handful of those have their inflight WiFi hotspots open for testing.
What does this sneak peek at British Airways' domestic and European WiFi system tell us?
For starters, don't expect any freebies – unless BA begins handing out free WiFi vouchers to Euro-business passengers and maybe even top-tier British Airways Executive Club frequent flyers.
Passengers connecting to the trial service have noted the same two-tier approach as on British Airways' international flights.
A single payment covers the entire flight, rather than being based on how long you stay connected for, or how much data you use.
The basic option is a £1.99 for a Messaging package intended for text-only messages through the likes of WhatsApp, iMessage, Facebook Messenger and similar low-bandwidth services.
To do pretty much anything else online, from email through to Netflix, you'll see to sign up for the faster Browse & Stream package.
This will be priced according to the actual length of the flight: for example, travellers making the 90 minute dash between London and Hamburg have noted the Browse & Stream option costing £6.99, while on the 2½ hour London-Lisbon flight it's pegged at £7.99.
Australian Business Traveller is waiting for BA's WiFi service to graduate from the sporadic testing stage to a commercial service before publishing speedmarks and a full review.
Unlike the satellite Internet technology used on most international flights, BA's short-range jets will tap into the ground-based European Aviation Network which uses modified mobile phone technology at specialised base stations which fire their signal up to the aircraft (although a backup satellite system is also present).
British Airways already offers sky-high WiFi on its longer international flights, which we tested at a zippy 12.5 Mbps.
Over 80% of BA's long-range aircraft will sport WiFi by the end of 2019, including deliveries of new aircraft such as the Airbus A350-1000 starting in July.
Additional material by David Flynn