Cathay Pacific aims to begin trials of in-flight Internet by mid-year ahead of a planned fleet-wide rollout.
CX Chief Operating Officer Ivan Chu told Australian Business Traveller that the initial test would be on a specially-equipped Boeing 747.
The aircraft will be rotated through Cathay’s European routes from Hong Kong to destinations including Amsterdam, Paris and London.
“We know the technology works, we are only waiting for regulatory approval (for all countries) over the whole route” Chu said.
Yasu Enokido, president of Panasonic Avionics, confirmed that Cathay will be using a Panasonic Ku-band satellite system and that Panasonic has signed “regulatory agreements with all counties bar China”, which he hopes to see completed in the next few months.
“Once this approval has been granted and we’re able to provide the service globally we will start the rollout in earnest”, Cathay’s General Manager Product, Alex McGowan, told Australian Business Traveller.
Chu said that CX will charge passengers for in-flight Internet rather than bundle it into the cost of the ticket, “because not all of our customers will want it.”
Cathay will then be able to commence its Boeing 747 trials, with travellers connecting their laptop, tablet or smartphone to wireless hotspots dotted around the aircraft.
The Hong Kong flag-carrier’s move towards in-flight Internet comes as other international airlines make their own forays into giving passengers the option of sky-high surfing, emailing and more.
Late last year saw Emirates roll out the in-flight Internet carpet to passengers on its fleet of Airbus A380s, with prices ranging from US$7.50 to US$25 (full details here).
Qantas is due to being a six-week trial of satellite Internet on its flagship Airbus A380 services from Sydney and Melbourne to Los Angles later this month.
A Qantas spokesperson told Australian Business Traveller that for the first few weeks of the trial – when access will be limited to passengers in the First and Business cabins – the service will be offered free of charge, before introducing a range of pay-to-surf packages "so we can get an indication of the demand at different price points." (Full details here).
Singapore Airlines is also tipped to reveal its own plans for in-flight Internet within the coming months.
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.