Turning on flight mode before takeoff is probably one of the most painful moments of any aviation journey in China.
While in-flight Wi-Fi is nothing new, and the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has allowed passengers to be online during flight since 2018. Several airlines had tested the water and deployed Wi-Fi on board even earlier.
Air China operated China's first Wi-Fi compatible commercial flight in 2011. In 2014, China Southern Airlines announced the launch of in-flight Wi-Fi services on selected flights on the Beijing-Guangzhou route, offering 50M bandwidth services.
By 2018, China Eastern Airlines had equipped almost all of its wide-body aircraft with in-flight Wi-Fi capability. Airlines including Xiamen Airlines also deployed Wi-Fi on wide-body aircraft.
An annual report released by CAAC showed that, as of the end of 2020, China had a total of 64 airlines and 3,903 aircraft, of which 3,717 are passenger aircraft. Among them, only 654 aircraft belonging to 20 airlines offer passengers with an in-cabin Wi-Fi service, of which, only 213 aircrafts across 11 airlines allow passengers access in the air, CAAC said.
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