SpaceX previously floated the idea of providing in-flight Internet service to airlines through Starlink. Now it signed a contract with charter plane service JSX to equip 100 of JSX’s planes with a specialized terminal designed for rapidly moving airplanes.
One perk of the deal is that it won’t require passengers to jump through hoops to access the Internet while in flight. JSX says it won’t require passengers to log into the network like many venues with free Wi-Fi do. This will make the system more convenient for business customers who would like to do some work while flying.
“The service will be offered to all JSX customers at no charge, and will not require logging in or other complexities associated with legacy systems,” JSX said in a statement announcing the deal.
JSX turned down a request for information on how much the deal was worth. SpaceX charges a $99 per month subscription fee for individual users and recently announced a $499 per month subscription plan for businesses. It advertises Starlink as a viable option for low-income or remote areas that don’t have many good options for Internet access (and did float the idea of a lower cost subscription plan for low-income users in an FCC filing).
SpaceX is also in talks with several other airlines to provide in-flight Internet access through a specialized Starlink terminal that can be mounted on an airplane and quickly transition from one satellite to another as the plane flies long-distance. This would be similar to how cell phone towers can relay your cell phone’s connection from one tower to the next as you go on a long-distance road trip.
Delta Airlines is currently conducting an “exploratory test” of in-flight Internet service that it hopes will attract more business customers.
Elon Musk mentioned that regulatory approval from the FAA would likely be a “schedule driver” for Starlink’s in-flight Internet service. Musk frequently clashes with regulatory agencies like the FAA, which repeatedly pushed back a decision on SpaceX’s application for a planned orbital test for Starship. He once referred to the FAA as being better suited to regulating airlines than dealing with space launch providers like SpaceX.
SpaceX is also working on a Starlink terminal for large vehicles like RVs, buses, trains, and ships. It says this version of the terminal will be suitable for applications in which mobility and reliable connectivity are essential, such as response to disasters in which other forms of communications were disrupted or traveling long-distance on a train. However, Starlink terminals are not suitable for mounting on the hood of your car.
JSX operates charter flights that frequently fly business customers from one major city to another in the western United States. Its jet planes can seat up to 30 passengers. Its selling points include quicker check-ins at the airport and a valet service.