BA’s parent company International Airlines Group first announced plans to roll out in-flight WiFi across its member airlines some four years ago.
At the time, it was planned that 90% of all long-haul aircraft would have WiFi by early 2019.
That is now looking a little ambitious. BA has been progressively adding WiFi to its long-haul fleet. However, the availability varies widely by aircraft type.
At present, there is no way of knowing for certain if your flight with WiFi. However, BA has detailed on its website those aircraft, by registration number, fitted with WiFi.
Here, we’ve indicated how many aircraft by fleet type have WiFi to give an indication of the likely chances of your flight being fitted with WiFi. Unsurprisingly, BA is focusing on refitting long-haul aircraft with First Class and high numbers of Club World seats first.
In short, you have a good chance of flying on a Boeing 747 with 86 Club World seats or a Boeing 777-200.
There’s a much smaller chance with the Airbus A380 and Boeing 777-300. There’s absolutely no chance on a Boeing 787-8 or 787-9 aircraft.
We receive a lot of enquiries about what in-flight entertainment (“IFE”) systems are used by BA and what programming is available, so we thought it would be useful to set out what we know.
All BA long-haul flights feature a personal IFE screen at every seat with on demand TV and audio programming. However, the systems used and, by extension, the quantity and picture quality of content vary by the type of aircraft.
The one exception is BA’s all business class Airbus A318 flight from London City to New York JFK. There is no IFE system fitted on this aircraft, so passengers are offered iPads with pre-loaded content instead.
Short-haul & medium-haul flights
There are no at seat IFE systems on any Airbus A319 and A320 aircraft which operate the vast majority of short-haul flights at London Heathrow or Gatwick.
A small number of BA’s fleet of Airbus A321 aircraft feature at seat entertainment screens. These operate selected flights to destinations such as Amman, Beirut, Moscow Domodedovo and Tel Aviv.
There are also no at seat IFE systems on any Embraer E-170 or E-190 aircraft at London City airport.
Overhead screens with a limited range of films and TV programmes are available on BA’s soon-to-be-retired fleet of Boeing 767 aircraft which operate on selected flights to Athens and Larnaca. There is also a selection of audio programming available at seat.
Let’s look at entertainment on long-haul flights in more detail:
BA In-flight entertainment systems on long-haul flights
BA uses three types of IFE system. In order of sophistication and quality these are:
British Airways to show Sky Sports’ popular weekly Soccer AM on some of its long-haul flights from 19 August 2014.
The airline will also show weekly highlights of Premier League games from the 2014/2015 season of the Barclays Premier League.
Furthermore, from September, the airline will also show Red Bull’s archives of sport programming ranging from freestyle moto-cross and mountain biking, to surfing and underground cave explorations.
BA say the above programming will be on “some” long-haul flights. We infer this is likely to mean Airbus A380, Boeing 787, Boeing 777-300 and some Boeing 777 aircraft which have the airline’s more advanced Thales in-flight entertainment system.
We have to admit for having known for some time that British Airways has been trialling in-flight WiFi on a single Boeing 747 aircraft.
However, as there has been no way of knowing whether this aircraft will be available on a specific flight (we understand this was intentional) the trial has not been particularly newsworthy.
Based on this an update issued by BA it seems the trial is now being targeted to a single specific flight. That flight is BA183 from London Heathrow to New York JFK. However, we cannot currently verify that this is case.
One of the many frustrations for air travellers are inconsistent rules between airlines. One specific irritation are the rules in respect of the use of mobile phones by passengers once an aircraft has landed on the runway.
The UK, in accordance with the rules of the Civil Aviation Authority (“CAA”), has always adopted a strict approach that mobile phones and other electronic devices cannot be switched on after landing until the aircraft has reached the gate and the aircraft engines have been switched off.
Some international airlines are not bound by such restrictions and allow the use of mobile phones once the wheels have touched down.
In practice, this often leads to passengers not following crew instructions.
BA has been working with the CAA and has been able to obtain agreement that mobile phones and other electronic devices can be used once the aircraft has cleared the runway and the all clear is given by cabin crew.
This is the second time in the past year that the CAA has relaxed its rules after lobbying by BA. Last year, BA obtained agreement that its in-flight entertainment systems could, subject to some restrictions, be used “gate to gate” rather than being switched on after take off and switched off before landing.
The new policy will apply network wide from 1 July 2013. Current policies on switching off electronic devices before take off remain unchanged.