Singapore Airlines (SIA) has joined the handful of carriers offering free onboard wi-fi to all passengers, and from July 1 onwards, customers will be able to browse and surf without the usual charges or data limits.

In-air internet has long been an awkward and messy extra expense that is usually more trouble than it was worth, if even available, and typically remains exclusive to those who shell out for a first-class or business traveller seat.

That has never sat easy with passengers, something the wealthy city-state’s flag carrier has picked up on.

Although time online has dropped compared to Covid lockdowns, when people were often left with little else to do, the world’s five billion regular internet users were still spending over six hours a day surfing and scrolling in 2022, according to We Are Social, a UK business that tracks web and social media use.

At the same time, air passenger numbers are rebounding. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), global passenger traffic in April 2023 was back to 90% of the pre-Covid level, meaning the world is on track for a return to the 4.5 billion carried in 2019, the year before the pandemic started and with it the imposition of restrictions on travel.

Putting two and two together, airlines such as SIA are looking to free wi-fi as a way to sway passengers when it comes to deciding which carrier to fly with.

“In today’s increasingly hyper-connected world, high-speed in-flight wi-fi connectivity is one of the most important requirements for our customers,” said Yeoh Phee Teik, SIA’s senior vice president customer experience.

Passengers will have to sign up for SIA’s free-to-join loyalty programme to access the wi-fi, similar to how some of the handful of other carriers that offer free wi-fi, such as Qatar Airways and Delta Air Lines, operate their systems.

SIA said that the offer would apply most of its 136 aircraft, except for seven Boeing 737-800 NGs it said are “not wi-fi enabled.”

Follow us on Twitter