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At long last, Thai Airways International (THAI) is able to offer in-flight connectivity, albeit on a small number of its jetliners and at a price.
The flag carrier rolled out WiFi internet services last Friday on its six Airbus 380-800 superjumbos and seven Airbus 330-300 jetliners after securing a long-awaited licence from the Office of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission on Jan 7.
The introduction of THAI Sky Connect makes it the first airline in Thailand to offer WiFi to passengers, ahead of budget carriers Nok Air and Thai AirAsia, which are still working on the process to get services launched, probably later this year.
THAI claims it is the fifth airline in Asia to offer onboard connectivity.
Smartphone users pay US$4.50 (146 baht) for 3 megabytes or $14.50 for 10 MB, while passengers with laptops or iPads pay $14.50 for 10 MB and $28.50 for 20 MB. Fees are payable by credit card or debit card.
THAI will waive WiFi fees for business-class passengers for the first three months of the trial run.
Passengers are able to use various services on the internet including virtual private networks, email, instant messaging and web browsing.
Geneva-based OnAir provides internet connectivity for THAI Sky Connect in each aircraft, while the internet signal is transmitted via satellite through a ground network.
WiFi is one of the perks that flag carriers are touting to lure back passengers who are increasingly turning to airlines with innovative services.
THAI applied for a licence to provide both in-flight WiFi and GSM 1800 phone services in 2011.
The number of THAI jets with broadband connectivity is limited to 13 of its fleet of about 100.
However, the airline plans to install WiFi on its wide-body jetliners including the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus 350 after they are delivered over the next four years.