Malaysia Airlines has launched free unlimited in-air WiFi at all class levels in all cabins without restrictions or conditions. While it is not the first carrier to make WiFi more available, the latest “free WiFi for everyone” move comes as the carrier seeks to outdo regional rivals who already offer the service but only with conditions.
Inflight WiFi rollout
From 1 November 2023, selected widebodied planes operated by the South East Asian flagship airline have benefitted from the service, meaning six Airbus A350- 900s, five A330 200s, and nine A330-300s are now equipped to offer all passengers onboard connectivity.
The 42 planes in the narrowbody fleet, mostly made up of Boeing 737-800s will follow soon after, as will 25 additional 737 MAX 8s yet to be delivered.
Free WiFi used to be offered on Malaysia Airlines to business class passengers and Enrich Platinum members only, while other passengers had to subscribe to the airline’s pay-per-use WiFi. This is a common way of operating and other airlines such as Emirates, Etihad and Singapore, require flyers to join a Loyalty Scheme or be frequent flyers to get connected.
Now though, Malaysia has stepped up its game, removing all restrictions, charges and caps on data.
But does everyone want “ubiquitous connectivity”?
Ubiquitous connectivity, or the ability to remain seamlessly connected no matter where or what one is doing – shopping, driving, flying – was a buzzword for transit and experience designers in the noughties, with “staying connected” believed to be the innovation that consumers wanted. Indeed, Malaysia Aviation Group’s Chief Executive Officer of Airlines, Ahmad Luqman Mohd Azmi, invoked this same goal in a press statement to mark the WiFi rollout.
We remain dedicated to ensuring that every aspect of our service is designed to make our customers’ journey as seamless, hassle-free and enjoyable as possible, and will continue to invest in initiatives that will greatly benefit their experience onboard Malaysian Hospitality.Ahmad Luqman Mohd Azmi, Malaysia Aviation Group’s Chief Executive Officer of Airlines
However, increasing numbers of people are seeking screen-down time and disconnection from tech, to prioritise authentic experiences and IRL (“in real life”) connection with friends, family, new social contacts and cultures. Some might argue those people have the choice to “switch off” or do a “reboot retreat” if they want to, but with the creep of technology into every part of our lives comes the expectation, particularly from some bosses, that employees will always be available and online. Flights, some say, used to be one place where it was legitimate to disconnect.