So here I am, after around 30 hours from usual Internet Activity, back online (Article written originally on the 9th of January 2015) ; but from a quite different place. I am on board an Emirates A-380 flight bound for Mauritius from Dubai (EK 701) and I am enjoying and testing the complimentary WiFi service provided on board. This article will be a little walk-through of the service, a quick test and some comments. The whole of this article was written using that service except for minor changes noted when I touched ground and after a good post-tiresome-delayed-flight. – and if my battery does not drain out after usage at the Airport. The tests and screenshots were conducted and taken on the flight itself. I resumed the tests on my return trip.
Emirates, an airline with the UAE as its home, has been serving Mauritius with its A-380’s since October 2014  and is now offering two flights daily to Dubai . Being among the leaders in aviation, Emirates decided to offer free Wi-Fi connectivity on board its flight with the collaboration of Switz’s based OnAir.
Well let’s connect from 30,000 miles above sea level
The service is provided by OnAir; a company with headquarters in Switzerland, that provides telecommunication facilities on-board airplanes and cruise ships to the joy of passengers who need to sms, call, surf and do almost anything. The service is available on all A-380 flights and select Boeing 777 flights. Obviously, for some advertising, the Wi-Fi connection on the plane had the company name as SSID; onair. Connect to the network and fire up a browser for login purposes. Once you are in your browser, you are caught by the Captive Portal with a nice sky image.
You get a free 10 MB package for starters after ‘creating an account’. A meter shows up after the login steps to show your usage. After all the login stuffs, a nice Google Search page appear, with the Emirates and OnAir logo. Should this 10 MB be used up, the connection to the Internet is cut and a link appears for you to purchase a 500 MB upgrade package for $1. The latter is, according to Emirates , donated to Emirates philanthropy branch, the Emirates Airline Foundation. After the purchase, your connection is resumed and you are back online. – Full login process and related are available in a photo gallery at the end of this article. –
I used the connection to test it, well I can say that I was quite excited to know that my flight will have this service. I’ve used the onboard SMS service, Email service and even phone call services and now Wi-Fi. I usually topup my prepaid card to test these services whenever I know I will encounter them.
As far as the speed of the connection, I found it somehow slow (arbitrary feelings). I fired Facebook, Email from Outlook and the Emirates website; it took quite a while to load. Skype was kinda fine. I video-called my family back in Mauritius (who was quite surprised I can say), and also Whatsapped using the account I created on my mobile-phone. I also, as I mentioned in the introduction carried out some tests. I completely forgot to do a traceroute test, but I will carry same next time.
The user is given a UK IP address with Telecitygroup Customer OnAir as ISP.
For a while, I thought that the relatively slow connection was because of the number of users on the network – imagine a 800-pax aircraft! -; that was not the case; the landing page shown 18 users were online; meh.
My two tests while onboard the A380 brought me to list up some likes and dislikes;
- Wi-Fi and Internet connection is a really important service nowadays, be it for business persons or common man; offering same onboard is a really great improvement.
- The upgrade package is not that expensive; maybe 500 MB is a quite small package for $1, but most users would be using the service from their mobile phones; I don’t think WhatsApp and Viber will eat up your 500 MB greedily. I had lengthy Skype video calls from the 500 MB and still had around 450 MB left.
- The captive portal and payment platform was developed in RubyOnRails 😀 I really like that framework.
- The $1 is donated to charity! Hats-Off Emirates!
- Well, on my second trip, I had some issues to connect to the system because during the first trip, I used my Hotmail account to login from my laptop and my Gmail one to login from my mobile phone. I could not use any of them to connect back, and had to resort to my custom irshaad.me emails. That was really an issue for me. Imagine some businessman travelling and login in the system. On his next flight, he tries to log in, but the system does not let him in because he has already used up his email address. Maybe, the system could be made to accept email addresses even if they have already been used.
- Carry-forward bandwidth. During my first flight, I registered with my email ID and created an account. I had around 250 MB left – maybe more – and thought that for my second trip, I can use the remaining. Unfortunately, that was not the case. When I inserted my email into the ‘Already purchased’ form, I was met with an error that the email cannot be used. Maybe a carry-forward account system can be implemented; users already have a username and password, so using same to login on flights and continue to use from the remaining bandwidth.
As a final word, I am very happy that Emirates is offering WiFi on-board its aircraft; even though extending same to all B777 flights would be great. At some point in time, we are fed up with the movies and Entertainment offered on-board (ICE is great for-the-word ) and would like to be online on Facebook, Whatsapp or Viber even from 30,000 miles above sea level.
Hats-off Emirates and On-Air.
This post is in no way an advertising material from Emirates or OnAir. Those are my personal views. This post is not backed by any of the two companies.
Well, maybe I am a little biased towards Emirates as an air-travel provider 😛
[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”1″ gal_title=”Wi-Fi on-board Emirates A380″]
Lil’ Extra – How does it work
 – http://www.emirates.com/english/about/news/news_detail.aspx?article=1725456
 – http://www.emirates.com/english/flying/our_fleet/emirates_a380/emirates_schedule/mauritius-dubai.aspx
 – http://www.emirates.com/english/about/news/news_detail.aspx?article=2036339