Air New Zealand adding high-speed internet to domestic flights with Starlink

Air New Zealand is working with satellite internet service provider Starlink to add free high-speed, low latency internet access to its domestic flights.

It will allow all passengers to stream higher quality video and conduct connected work much more effectively while onboard, the airline said.

The first two aircraft to receive Starlink access will have it installed in late 2024 for a trial period of four to six months. It's then planned to be rolled out to more of the fleet in 2025.

While Air NZ already offers Wi-Fi on many international routes - as do many other airlines - the Starlink access should be quicker and will allow some heavy data use services that are blocked on international flights.

It's promised to offer a connection with latency as low as 30ms. While a more precise connection speed will be evaluated in the trial phase, the airline told Newshub it expects 1-2 Mbps per customer when every passenger on a full flight is connected, and much higher speeds when fewer are.

To stream standard definition video requires around 2 Mbps; for 1080p (HD) you want a connection of 5 Mbps, while the minimum for 4K (UHD) is around 25 Mbps.

Air NZ said there will be a total of 220+ Mbps on each aircraft - so theoretically, if only a few other people were connected to the Wi-Fi on your flight, you could comfortably enjoy 4K streaming content from the likes of YouTube or Netflix.

While video streaming will be offered over the Starlink internet access, video or voice calls will not be as current aviation regulations prohibit those. This also means people cannot broadcast live from a moving plane, even if the connection is fast enough to support it.

"We know maintaining seamless internet connectivity is something that will transform the travel experience for customers," said Air NZ chief digital officer Nikhil Ravishankar.

"Our free and accessible Wi-Fi onboard international flights has proved incredibly popular among customers, so we can't wait to bring connectivity to domestic flights.

"We're always looking at how new and innovative technology can deliver improved customer experiences and with the world's largest satellite constellation, exploring in-motion connectivity on our aircraft with Starlink was a no-brainer."