British Airways to roll out Wifi on flights, but budget airlines insist passengers just want a break

Sara Spary
The airline's parent company IAG, which also owns Aer Lingus and Iberia, is introducing new high speed wifi on board selected aircraft this June  - PA

British Airways flights across Europe could have wifi on board from June - with passengers able to check emails, tweet and upload selfies from the cabin.

The airline's parent company IAG, which also owns Aer Lingus and Iberia, is introducing new high speed wifi on board selected aircraft this June before rolling it out across 90 per cent of its short haul fleet by 2019.

While on-board wifi is common on long haul flights, and is already offered by carriers including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, it is rare in Europe because the the dense airspace makes connection to satellites patchy.

IAG is the launch customer of the European Aviation Network, a new system that allows airplane antenna to connect to a system of 300 ground towers across Europe as well as satellites.

The system, developed by Inmarsat and Deutsche Telekom, requires far lighter on-board equipment than before.

Previously, an Inmarsat spokesperson told The Daily Telegraph, the weight of equipment had not been fuel efficient for short-haul aircraft, which are often smaller.

"We will see airlines able to offer reliable, high-speed and future-proof in flight broadband access across Europe’s high-traffic flight paths," the spokesperson added.

Airlines that offer free in-flight Wi-Fi

"Until now, European airlines have been forced to rely on heavy satellite based inflight internet. EAN requires a few very small and light antennas making it also ideally suited for fitting on smaller aircraft that are typically used on European routes."

The spokesperson, which said the company was in discussions "with all major airlines" about the technology, said it costs hundreds of thousands of pounds to install. 

Passengers of Britain's budget airlines might, however, be left disappointed. Ryanair and Easyjet told The Daily Telegraph they had "no current plans" to offer it.

"Some [passengers] are delighted to be out of contact during their flight while they get some respite from email and social media,”a Ryanair spokesperson added.