Etihad is forging ahead in the inflight wifi Internet race, with CEO James Hogan declaring that "by the end of 2014, every single Etihad Airways aircraft will be equipped for inflight connectivity."
The airline launched its "Wi-Fly" service today on an aircraft in the airline's Airbus A330-200 fleet, which flies from Brisbane to Abu Dhabi via Singapore, plus Brussels, Dublin, Manchester, Munich, Frankfurt and Milan as connections from Abu Dhabi.
And the data will cost you less than most Australian hotels: US$25 for a 24-hour pass, or US$14 for one hour. (If you're flying Etihad's Diamond First Class, the wifi is included free.)
Thinking about flying Etihad? We reviewed the airline's Diamond First Class and Pearl Business Class in November, and also brought you a photographic foodie review of the chef-prepared tasting menu. between Sydney and Abu Dhabi.
If you want to use your phone as an actual phone, you'll be charged "based on the international roaming rates of guests’ mobile network providers," Etihad said in a statement.
Rollout towards the 2014 deadline for all aircraft to have wifi will be swift. "By the end of Q1 2013, we will have 10 Etihad Wi-Fly-equipped aircraft," Etihad's Hogan promised today.
"All Etihad Airways narrow-body aircraft will be outfitted with data and mobile phone connectivity, while wide-body aircraft will be additionally equipped for broadband Internet services," the airline confirmed.
Narrow-body aircraft are short-distance jets with single aisles, used for regional flights, while wide-body planes are the larger kind used for all Etihad flights from Australia.
An Etihad spokesperson confirmed to Australian Business Traveller that some Australian flights may be rolled out early in the game: "We’ll have some of our A340s fitted out next year, but due to aircraft rotations this may mean the service is not available on every flight to and from Sydney and Melbourne until the whole fleet is done in 2014."
The technology behind Wi-Fly is different to the OnAir system tested on a handful of Etihad's jets. Wi-Fly runs on Panasonic's Global Communications Suite, which is an air-to-satellite system -- not to be confused with the faster, more widely available air-to-ground technologies like Gogo that you'd see in the USA.
Etihad's announcement comes on the same day that Qantas scrubbed its own plans for inflight Internet.
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About John Walton
Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.