China airline tests Wi-Fi on flight

Beijing: A leading Chinese airline Wednesday tested a programme to allow passengers to use in-flight Wi-Fi, paving the way for the technology’s application for the first time in China’s booming aviation market.

The satellite-based Wi-Fi service was made available on a flight operated by China Eastern Airlines, the first test of the service on a Chinese commercial flight.

The test service was launched on an Airbus A330 servicing the Shanghai-Beijing route, and the first trial flight took off today morning,

The aircraft is installed with devices that rely on satellites to transmit signals, boasting broader bandwidth and greater stability compared with communication via base stations, Zhang Chi with China Eastern Airlines told Xinhua.

The trial is an important step for in-flight Wi-Fi service to win approval from the country’s aviation regulators who have yet to issue licenses for its commercial use.

The trial will help collect data and passenger feedback for setting standards and rules, Zhang said.

Though in-flight Wi-Fi has already been available on carriers outside of China, the country’s airline passengers, who number 360 million per year, have been eager to use their smart-phones during flights.

In 2011, Air China tested Wi-Fi intranet on one flight, which only allowed passengers to access the airline’s network.