Earlier this year, commercial spaceflight company SpaceX announced that they would be launching 4,425 broadband internet satellites into orbit around the Earth with the goal of providing high-speed internet to the entire planet. These satellites are set to launch sometime in 2019, and SpaceX has already completed construction of the first two prototypes at their headquarters in Hawthorne, CA. In a recent interview with Fortune, Frontier Airlines Chairman and CEO Barry Biffle said that his airline was negotiating with SpaceX about adding Starlink Wi-Fi to its fleet of Airbus A320 jets by 2020.
According to Frontier Airlines’ CEO, who spoke to CNBC on Thursday, the airline has “recently” spoken with SpaceX adding its Starlink satellite internet service to its aircraft and is more optimistic about doing so than in prior years.
The low-cost carrier would change course by incorporating Starlink’s Wi-Fi because it now doesn’t provide in-flight internet access. According to CEO Barry Biffle, cutting out Wi-Fi for the time being enables the airline to be more “green” because it reduces weight on board.
SpaceX representatives were not immediately available for comment.
Biffle remarked in an interview conducted on the sidelines of an aerospace symposium in Washington, D.C., “The difficulty is that I don’t want the weight and I don’t want drag. I don’t transport travellers on business.
The majority of significant U.S. airlines charge a fee for Wi-Fi on board, however several are working to raise the service’s calibre and cut its price.
The Starlink broadband network, which is currently being built by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, has over 500,000 total users, the majority of whom are individual consumers, and currently has more than 3,000 satellites in orbit.
The FCC granted SpaceX permission to offer mobile Starlink internet service to trucks, boats, and aeroplanes in June. Recently, the business entered into a contract with Royal Caribbean Cruises.
Denver-based Frontier had previously considered bringing Wi-Fi on board and often consults with other carriers but hasn’t been able to justify the expense thus far. It’s changing, according to Biffle.
With Starlink’s entry, “we’re more optimistic that there will be some rationalisation of cost and pricing,” Biffle added. “I’ll put it on when the price is low enough.”
THe explained that the carrier has no timetable for bringing internet service on board and mentioned that it might eventually collaborate with a rival provider.
Hawaiian Airlines, a major airline, and Starlink inked a contract in April to offer inflight internet. Hawaiian Airlines claimed the service would be free for passengers.
When the service eventually launches, Frontier will probably charge for Wi-Fi onboard, according to Biffle.
I don’t have any ancillary items that aren’t profitable, he claimed.