Cathay Pacific is closing in on a timetable to begin tests of inflight Internet, but operating in Chinese airspace remains the stumbling block.
The airline previously hoped to start trials on a specially-fitted Boeing 747 in the middle of last year, with travellers able to connect their laptop, tablet or smartphone to wireless hotspots dotted around the aircraft.
However, Cathay is waiting on approval from Chinese aviation authorities before it can commence its tests and assess the take-up and viability of the service.
“Given the large number of flights and the amount of flying time we have over China, the issue for us is regulatory approval, which is a fairly length process and is still underway” explains Toby Smith, Cathay Pacific’s General Manager, Product.
“Even on our flights to New York there’s quite a lot of hours over China, in fact even going to Japan or Korea you can be getting into Chinese airspace” Smith explains.
“Once we have a clear timeline for that, we will retrofit an aircraft and look at some testing” he tells Australian Business Traveller.
“So there’s a roadmap (for inflight WiFi) but the start of that journey is when we have clarity on the China issue, which we’re working hard on.”
At the same time, Smith is keeping an open mind on how Cathay passengers will respond to inflight Internet and the ability to remain connected even up among the clouds
“A lot of our passengers tell us that being on a flight is their haven, and they are afraid that WiFi will ruin that” Smith relates, “However some people are flying from Hong Kong to Singapore, it’s a daytime flight and they want to catch up with some work – so yes, for them it would be very useful.”
“But looking at the uptake on other airlines which have done it, I don’t think it’s a slam sunk by any means.”
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About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.