JSX expects to begin operating its first passenger-carrying flight featuring SpaceX’s Starlink in-flight connectivity (IFC) service by October, according to comments made by the charter operator’s CEO Alex Wilcox at the Future Travel Experience (FTE) Global event earlier this month.
The California-based company was confirmed as the launch air carrier for Starlink IFC in April, marking SpaceX’s first entry into the commercial aviation IFC market. During his participation in the FTE panel discussion “In-flight Experience 2030,” Wilcox provided a timeline for the launch for the new service and some insight into how it will work.
“Probably the number one complaint we get from customers is no Wi-Fi. We’re the launch customer for SpaceX Starlink Wi-Fi solution, that will be on every airplane by the end of this year,” Wilcox said, adding that the first Starlink-equipped JSX flight should occur by October.
Starlink is a constellation of Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites with a focus on enabling broadband internet service in remote areas. SpaceX has launched more than 3,000 Starlink satellites for the constellation this year, according to recent reporting by Via Satellite, a sister publication to Avionics International.
JSX operates a fleet of 77 total Embraer 135s and 145s, and currently has Starlink antennas, modems, and wireless access points installed and testing on two of its aircraft. Wilcox described the performance of Starlink on those two aircraft as working “amazingly well.”
The JSX co-founder said that even with the technology still in testing mode, they were actually able to use it as an alternative to airport internet service. According to Wilcox, during a recent internet service outage at Hollywood Burbank Airport, JSX airline staff took a laptop onboard one of their Starlink-equipped aircraft and used that to check passengers in instead.
“That’s how good it is,” Wilcox said.
While JSX already confirmed that it will offer the service free of charge to passengers, Wilcox provided more insight into how the Starlink IFC service will be operated and accessed.
“That’s going to be lounge to lounge service, the second you get on the airplane, all you need to do is click on the SSID and you’re on,” he said. “There’s no login, no credit card, nothing, just on and open for everybody. It’s 200 mbps to the airplane and it’s awesome.”
When asked whether JSX would consider adding seatback in-flight entertainment (IFE) screens to its Embraer fleet, the air carrier’s CEO said he believes they’re “firmly in the bring your own screen camp” and does not see that investment happening any time soon.
Hawaiian Airlines was confirmed as SpaceX’s first major commercial airline customer shortly after JSX became the launch air transportation customer in April. Hawaiian will also offer the service to passengers for free, and expects to begin equipping its aircraft with Starlink terminals next year.
SpaceX’s top Starlink executive, Jonathan Hofeller, said during his appearance at the Connected Aviation Intelligence Summit earlier this year that several other airline agreements are in the works as well.