While Emirates may offer 10MB of free inflight Internet and a further 500MB for just US$1, Finnair sets the connection completely free aboard its Airbus A350s for business class passengers and high-ranking frequent flyers, with no data caps or pesky time limits to contend with.
Even if you have to pay, plans start at just $7 for an hour-long surf – enough time to check your email or send new messages of your own, browse social media or the Web at large.
Australian Business Traveller puts Finnair's Airbus A350 inflight Internet to the test on a recent round trip from Hong Kong to Helsinki, Finland.
Finnair Airbus A350 inflight Internet: plans
Finnair really spoils its premium passengers, offering free and unlimited inflight Internet access to business class flyers, Gold and Platinum members of its Finnair Plus frequent flyer scheme and also other Oneworld Sapphire and Emerald travellers.
Yes, this means that even Qantas Gold and Platinum cardholders enjoy Internet at no cost whenever flying on a Finnair Airbus A350, but even if you're not a high-tier frequent flyer and are stuck down the back, the prices are still quite affordable:
- One hour: €5 (A$7.25)
- Duration of flight: €15 (A$21.80)
Costs are the same regardless of whether you connect using a smartphone, tablet or laptop – and whether you pay for your connection or are enjoying it complimentary, there's no fixed limit for how much data you can download between take-off and touchdown.
Finnair A350 inflight Internet: getting online
After the aircraft climbs past 10,000 feet and you connect to the 'Nordic Sky' hotspot, it's hard to miss the large 'purchase Internet access' button that appears when trying to pull up an ordinary website – tap or click it: What you do next depends on whether you're paying for the connection or you're getting it for free. If the former, hit 'select plan' and choose your preferred option from those above, and if the latter, tap on 'voucher code': For business class flyers, find your own unique voucher code by using the A350's inflight entertainment system – you'll spot it at the bottom-left corner of the screen... ... which you'll then enter straight into the portal. Eligible frequent flyers in economy can request a similar voucher code from the crew, and enter it in the same way: Less simplistic is the rigmarole you then have to go through to actually get online – you'll need to either create a Finnair WiFi account and choose your own Internet access username, or sign-in to an account you've made on a previous flight: Once that's done, you'll again need to confirm your intention to connect to the Internet by tapping the 'connect' button. We thought that was the point of the earlier steps, but alas not. Huzzah! You're now online, and those few extra steps still beat paying for a connection.
Plans can be used on more than one device – so if you're on your laptop and the meal arrives, you can switch to your smartphone or tablet to keep browsing – but seemingly only on one device at a time.
Switch your connection between gadgets by entering the username and password you created during the earlier steps. See, there was a point to that after all!
If you run into any troubles, go back to your inflight entertainment monitor (the one fixed to the aircraft, not your tablet loaded with House of Cards) and click on the WiFi icon in the corner: That reminds you of the steps needed to connect, and if necessary, your voucher code.
Finnair A350 inflight Internet: surfing speeds
While there's a lot to like, the service didn't work at all when flying in Chinese airspace – and on a route like Hong Kong to Helsinki, that makes up almost half the flight.
That said, the after-midnight departure from Asia gears the journey strongly towards a solid sleep after take-off, and when we awoke closer to Helsinki, the connection worked fine while soaring through Russian skies.
(Since taking the flight, Finnair tells Australian Business Traveller that the service has been upgraded to function over China, so future passengers should be much more connected.)
As with any inflight Internet connection, speeds vary based on how many users are connected to the service, how much data they're downloading and which particular satellite the aircraft has connected to.
We ran a number of speed tests from the air and at the top of the scale, downloads clocked in at 4.77Mbps, uploads at 1.08Mbps and ping speeds at 27ms – while the worst-performing test had downloads pegged at 0.27Mbps, uploads at 0.42Mbps and ping speeds of 921ms.
All up, that's about what you'd expect, but even if you're offline or aren't eligible for a free connection and aren't willing to pay, you can still use the WiFi portal to learn more about your destination... ... including what to do, what to see and where to eat once you've landed: If not for the complicated sign-up procedure, this would be a real five-star inflight experience – but with that consideration, it's a solid four stars in our books, and we'd love to see even more airlines offering free Internet in the years to come.
Chris Chamberlin travelled to Helsinki as a guest of Finnair.
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