Australia’s best dual credit card account: Westpac Altitude Black

Australia’s best dual credit card account: Westpac Altitude Black

NOTE: As of February 1 2018, all new Westpac Altitude Black credit card accounts will not be issued with a companion American Express card, only a Mastercard. Existing cardholders can use their Westpac-issued American Express cards until April 4 2018.


Credit cards can be a great way to earn frequent flyer points, but keeping track of your purchases, points and outstanding balances across multiple credit card accounts can be time-consuming – and that’s where ‘dual’ credit card accounts come in handy.

With both an American Express and a Visa or Mastercard attached to a single account, you still benefit from earning more points where AMEX is accepted while also collecting some points where it isn’t: all while paying only one annual fee, receiving one monthly statement and making one monthly payment which covers all of your spend, regardless of which card you used.

For new customers, a dual card account also requires only one application to receive both cards – an American Express and a ‘non-AMEX’ card – which then share the same credit limit to keep things straightforward.

Following major changes across almost all Australian banks this year in response to the RBA’s new credit card interchange fee regulations, Westpac’s Altitude Black combo emerges as the best dual credit card account in Australia, pairing an American Express card with a World Mastercard on the one account.

Awarding the highest number of points per dollar spent on everyday purchases of any ‘Big Four Bank’ American Express card, the Westpac Altitude Black AMEX delivers 1.25 Qantas Points or the equivalent of 1.25 Virgin Australia Velocity points per dollar spent, uncapped.

(Cardholders can choose the Altitude Qantas rewards option to earn Qantas Points, or the Altitude Rewards option where points can be converted across to Virgin Australia Velocity and more, although payments to the ATO don’t earn points via either option.)

That’s 25% more points per dollar spent than the comparable NAB Qantas Rewards Premium AMEX and the NAB Velocity Rewards Premium AMEX (which also provide no more points after spending $5,000 per month), and significantly trumps the CBA Diamond Awards AMEX, which now gives only 0.2 Qantas Points or 0.25 Velocity points per dollar spent on most purchases in Australia.

Then there’s the companion Westpac Altitude Black World Mastercard for earning points where American Express isn’t accepted, which provides 0.625 Qantas Points per dollar via Altitude Qantas or the equivalent of 0.625 Velocity points per dollar via Altitude Rewards, again uncapped.

NAB’s Qantas Rewards Premium Visa and Velocity Rewards Premium Visa provide only 0.5 frequent flyer points per dollar spent by comparison, which is again capped at $5,000 per month across NAB’s entire AMEX + Visa dual card account: so if you’ve spent $5,000 on a NAB AMEX, you’ll earn zero points using an attached NAB Visa in the same month.

The Commonwealth Bank’s Diamond Awards World Mastercard also provides fewer Qantas Points than Westpac – 0.5/$1 compared to Westpac’s 0.625/$1 – and levies an extra $30/year charge for doing so, while capping your earn at 400,000 Qantas Points per year across both Diamond cards.

Opt for Velocity points instead (via the Commonwealth Awards program) and you can increase that slightly to 0.625 Velocity points per dollar of Mastercard spend, and while that’s the same as Westpac’s Altitude Black Mastercard, CBA caps that at 500,000 Velocity points per year.

ANZ no longer issues American Express cards at all, leaving Westpac’s Altitude Black combo as the best dual credit card account for earning frequent flyer points in Australia.

Extra features of Westpac Altitude Black

Along with earning a reasonable number of frequent flyer points on your everyday purchases, Westpac is also offering a solid sign-up offer for new customers along with a reduced annual fee of $195 in the first year (normally $395).

Eligible new customers could collect 80,000 bonus Qantas Points or 80,000 bonus Altitude Rewards points (equal to 40,000 Velocity points) when applying via this link by October 26 2017 and spending at least $5,000 on purchases within 90 days of approval, either using the AMEX or Mastercard, or a combination of both.

There’s also a further bonus of 20,000 Qantas Points or 20,000 Altitude Rewards points (10,000 Velocity points) on the table for customers who apply via Australian Business Traveller by October 26 2017, awarded on card approval.

A grand total of 100,000 Qantas Points would be enough for a return Qantas business class upgrade to Asia...

Westpac’s Altitude Black cards provide four airport lounge visits each year as well, being two visits to the AMEX Sydney Airport lounge, plus either two Qantas lounge visits when choosing Altitude Qantas rewards or a complimentary Priority Pass account with two lounge visits included when choosing Altitude Rewards.

There’s also the option of having an additional cardholder on the account (such as your partner or spouse) at no extra cost to maximise the frequent flyer points you can earn, with all points credited to the primary cardholder’s rewards account each month.

A more advanced (and expensive) strategy for earning credit card points

While dual card accounts are great for time-poor spenders who want to keep things simple and straightforward, more advanced points fiends might instead choose to mix and match cards from different banks to earn the absolute highest number of points per dollar spent.

For instance, the $450/year American Express Qantas Ultimate Card provides a higher 1.5 Qantas Points per dollar spent on everyday purchases, while the similar and $375/year American Express Velocity Platinum Card dishes up 1.5 Velocity points per dollar spent on the same, uncapped.

Both of those cards have higher earning rates than enjoyed via the Westpac Altitude Black AMEX, but come without a ‘backup’ card to use where AMEX isn’t accepted: so you’ll be paying a second annual fee to hold a points-earning Visa or Mastercard as well.

Heavy spenders might consider the $425 ANZ Frequent Flyer Black Visa which churns out one Qantas Point per dollar spent up to $7,500 per month and 0.5 Qantas Points per dollar spent thereafter, or the $375/year ANZ Rewards Black Visa which provides the equivalent of one Velocity point per dollar spent up to $5,000 per month, and 0.5 Velocity points per dollar spent thereafter.

ANZ is currently waiving those annual fees in the first year for new customers, but for a lower ongoing annual cost – particularly if you shop where AMEX is accepted most of the time – something like the HSBC Platinum Qantas Visa could be a more affordable pairing for your AMEX.

Awarding one Qantas Point per dollar spent up to $2,500 per month and 0.5 Qantas Points per dollar spent thereafter (up to 7,500 Qantas Points per month), a much lower ongoing annual fee of $199 applies: $649/year in total when paired with the AMEX Qantas Ultimate Card to maximise your frequent flyer points, compared to $395/year ongoing with the Westpac Altitude Black combo.

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin (ChrisCh)

[email protected] / @ChamberlinChris

Chris Chamberlin is a senior journalist with Australian Business Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!
 

9 Comments

  • Mark

    Mightyreds

    5 Oct, 2017 02:55 pm

    It is just a shame the major banks other than ANZ have not signed up to Apple Pay.
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  • mviy

    mviy

    5 Oct, 2017 09:41 pm

    Apple Pay is not accepted in a lot of places. I don't use it.
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  • douglasac10

    douglasac10

    6 Oct, 2017 03:36 am

    If the machine accepts contactless payments, then Apple Pay and Android Pay should both work as all they're doing is emulating a contactless card. Just make sure you're holding the phone to the right spot for long enough.

    That said, I have encountered issues with some older machines that aren't common, specifically old ANZ Ingenico 3070 ands Commbank Ingenico 5100 machines with separate contactless readers, where they just beep angrily at you and complain, l however these machines aren't too common anymore
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  • Victor Perez

    vperez

    11 Oct, 2017 01:38 pm

    True, but what is utterly ridiculous is the Citibank AU isn't on board when it's offered in America. I emailed Citi about 1.5 years ago re the issue and they responded stating they have no plans to support Apple Pay which is unfortunate given the number of Cards they underwrite including Coles.
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  • Joe

    Joe

    5 Oct, 2017 03:04 pm

    Don't forget the Qantas Ultimate card give $450 flight credit with Qantas negating the annual fee.
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  • mviy

    mviy

    5 Oct, 2017 09:42 pm

    Indeed. And with the ANZ having no annual fee for the first year you could get that and cancel it before the year's up and if you can't find a better option then consider getting this Westpac card.
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  • cdjoseph

    cdjoseph

    25 Oct, 2017 09:18 am

    As you indicated in the article you can no longer gain points for paying the ATO. Up until they changed that I agree it was the best combo card.
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  • Julie Marchal

    austrav

    6 Nov, 2017 01:40 pm

    Chris - I am confused and have two questions! First, Which card will give me the better rate on conversion from dollars spent to SIA miles - a Westpac Altitude Black or my existing Amex Explorer? Also, I have an old Westpac Earth Black which gives QF miles but I want to switch entirely to SIA for the future. Westpac tell me that 'you have to use up your points within 3 months of cancellation of the card' Surely once they have gone to QF they can't claw them back? (I don't have many left anyway, but its odd....).
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  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    6 Nov, 2017 01:45 pm

    Hi austrav, while we can't give readers personal financial advice, we can say more generally that Westpac Altitude Black currently adopts a 2.5:1 conversion rate for converting Altitude points into KrisFlyer miles, while Explorer uses a 4:3 conversion rate. However, you should also consider the earning rates of your desired card, and how that will translate into KrisFlyer miles. (Explorer earns the equivalent of 1.5 KrisFlyer miles per dollar spent, for example, while WBC Altitude Black earns the equivalent of 1.0 KrisFlyer miles per dollar spent via AMEX.)

    Secondly, Westpac's comment may have been referring to Altitude Rewards points which are housed with the bank and later converted into frequent flyer points, not Qantas Points which are already in your account. We can't speak on behalf of Westpac, but once you've earned frequent flyer points in your actual frequent flyer account, banks can't normally pull them out (except where there's been an error or a refunded purchase). That said, Westpac is your contact here.
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Guest

21 Jul, 2018 12:11 pm

Which Qantas lounges can Air New Zealand Airpoints frequent flyer use?

Which Qantas lounges can Air New Zealand Airpoints frequent flyer use?

Air New Zealand's Airpoints frequent flyers will enjoy have access to Qantas Clubs around Australia under the newly-forged alliance between the two airlines.

As of October 28, 2018, Airpoints Elite and Gold members booked on a codeshare flight with Qantas will find the doors swing open for them at the two dozen Qantas Club lounges in Australia's capital cities and regional centres. They'll also be permitted to bring in one guest.

But it won't be as easy as flashing your shiny Airpoints card, as the following conditions apply:

  1. you have to be travelling on a domestic Qantas flight
  2. it has to be booked under the Air New Zealand codeshare (those flight numbers will be in the NZ7xxx range)
  3. and this must be booked as part of a trans-Tasman booking

This arrangement replaces Airpoints access to Virgin Australia lounges following the dramatic bust-up between the two former allies.

However, there appears to be no Qantas Club lounge access for Koru Club members, nor can AirNZ frequent flyers cool their heels in the more upmarket Qantas Business lounges.

The Qantas / Air New Zealand alliance covers selected flights on the domestic network of each airline, however trans-Tasman and other international flights are excluded from the arrangement.

Read more: Qantas, Air New Zealand alliance will take on Virgin Australia

David Flynn

David Flynn (David)

[email protected] / @djsflynn

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.
 

4 Comments

  • henrus

    henrus

    20 Jul, 2018 05:31 pm

    Doesn't it seem a bit odd that Koru club won't get access (something that the VA deal provided) . I guess there will be no access for QF Club cardholders in NZ either?
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  • aviation

    aviation

    21 Jul, 2018 09:27 am

    Correct, it's reciprocal in that QF Club card holders can't use NZ lounges. The VA deal was very unique as they were the only partner lounges Koru members could access without actually flying Air NZ.
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  • Uqsthom6

    Uqsthom6

    21 Jul, 2018 08:05 am

    Looks like air nz ff get the raw end of the deal
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  • aviation

    aviation

    21 Jul, 2018 08:31 am

    Thanks for the article, however, there are a few errors.
    1. It's not really an alliance, but a straight domestic codeshare agreement. Alliance to me suggests coordination on pricing, schedules, etc, of which is there is none of.
    2. Some codeshare flights on Qantas are in the NZ1xxx range too (namely the triangle routes)
    3. The codeshare flight can be used for any international journey originating in Australia, not just trans-Tasman (i.e. you could fly CBR-SYD-AKL-LAX or MEL-SYD-RAR)
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Guest

21 Jul, 2018 12:11 pm

What you can expect from Cathay's new business class dining concept

What you can expect from Cathay's new business class dining concept

Cathay Pacific will roll out its new 'business class dining concept' this month, with the meal service taking a step closer to a first class experience.

Meals will be individually plated and delivered to passengers by hand rather than by trolley, as the airline adopts more personalised and upmarket approach.

Cathay also expects this will result in a "quieter and calmer cabin environment", especially on late night flights.

Passengers will have a choice between three appetisers and "up to six main course choices" on flights over ten hours in the initial launch of the service to the likes of Chicago (on July 30), London/Gatwick (in August) followed by Frankfurt, Manchester and Washington DC (September); Amsterdam, Paris and Johannesburg (October), Madrid, Brussels and Barcelona (November) and London/Heathrow (December). 

And, being very much on trend, light and healthy 'wellbeing options' feature in every main course.

On flights from Hong Kong the menu will be changed every month, with a quarterly menu refresh for flights to Hong Kong.

Fights from Hong Kong (but not, for now, the return leg) will also see a new range of Hong Kong Favourites inspired by local dishes, such as

  • Hong Kong char siu pork with egg noodles, seasoned soy sauce, spring onion and ginger (shown below)
  • Wok fried seafood in lobster soup with ginger, spring onion, crispy and steamed rice
  • Beef brisket with flat rice noodle soup
  • Mango with pomelo and sago

But before all that eatings starts, business class passengers will notice the new-look menus.

Printed as eight pages on quality paper, they not only detail the meals and drinks available on that flight but include foodie-friendly articles such as 'Anatomy of a Laksa' and feature a local chef revealing their favourite eateries both in Hong Kong and around thr world.

There will also be a breakfast menu card which passengers will complete before hitting the hay, so that they can wake to what the airline described as a "hotel room-service" experience.

However, these are set menus rather than allowing travellers to pick-and-mix from a wide selection of items.

In addition to what's described as 'traditional' Chinese and Western breakfasts, there's also a lighter Continental breakfast plus a minimalist Express breakfast of a piece of pastry and a drink, which can be served 60 minutes before landing for passengers who wish to maximise their sleep.

Refreshments will be revamped as a selection of 'most loved dishes' available throughout the flight as a snack between meals on services to North America and Europe, including the airline's signature burger and popular soup noodles. These will also appear on the main meal menu.

Next year will see Cathay's 'new business class dining concept' extend to medium-distance routes, with plans to include Sydney and Auckland in February 2019 and Melbourne, Brisbane, Cairns, Adelaide and Perth in May 2019.

David Flynn

David Flynn (David)

[email protected] / @djsflynn

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.
 

10 Comments

  • Skipp

    Skipp

    20 Jul, 2018 12:48 pm

    Look forward to the new meal service in business class coming within the next 12 months - it will make a nice change.
    I just hope (for the future) that Cathay Pacific will stop serving the exact same economy class meals in "Premium" economy class.
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  • MissBasset

    MissBasset

    20 Jul, 2018 01:34 pm

    Why bother with the white linen tablecloth if they are serving it on a plastic cafeteria tray? The promo pictures show all set up to eat off the tray. Euww.. I will take it all off the tray and set it up like other airlines J class. FAIL for presentation, CX.
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  • mrj

    mrj

    20 Jul, 2018 02:42 pm

    I recently suggested to Cathay that their business classs food is amongst the worst of all airlines. Interestingly their response failed to mention this planned revamp.
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  • AADFW

    AADFW

    20 Jul, 2018 02:57 pm

    I'm really glad they're going back to classy, glossy paper stock for the menus versus the uncoated groundwood paper they switched to a few years back. Now if they would only bring back that trademark chocolate box at the end of the meal...
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  • David Flynn

    David

    20 Jul, 2018 03:25 pm

    I was on CX a few weeks back and the chocolates made an appearance on every flight...
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  • Manjit Sadhwani

    Manjit Sadhwani

    20 Jul, 2018 03:19 pm

    It's about time
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  • HKAus

    HKAus

    20 Jul, 2018 03:41 pm

    CX Catering is bar far the most outdated and leaves an overall cheap and poor guest experience of most International airliners. CX have unfortunately chosen over the last decade to reduce their overheads where guests can see and feel the difference. Personally after 5 years as a Diamond CX member I have moved to competitors; poor catering, moody crew members, consistently delayed flights (due to over use of planes with no margin for delays) and ridiculous pricing have enabled me to now enjoy such operators as KLM, Virgin Australia, Qantas & Lufthansa; all with an overall better "J"Class experience. Interestingly as a result of my change in travel I was dropped to Gold and this year even though I should have dropped another tier, they obviously are trying to get pax like myself back because they extended my gold status.
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  • Rkwm

    Rkwm

    20 Jul, 2018 04:39 pm

    It was taken CX far too long to make changes to the atrocious F&B that has annoyed their long term supporters . The plastic cafeteria tray certainly brings the enhancements down a few levels can’t, understsnd who approved this inclusion . Totally agree with HKAus, supported CX for over two decades but over the last two years the deterioration in service , punctuality and value has been palpable.


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  • Tony OBERON

    obi

    20 Jul, 2018 04:48 pm

    Looks marginally better - but CX are you seriously going to use a plastic tray? At least put a cloth on the tray - if for no other reasons than hygiene! I’m a germophobe and I cringe to see cutlery sitting on a plastic tray, which cannot be washed at the same high temps as crockery. Lysteria et al here we come.
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  • JOHN MEWETT

    mewettjohn

    21 Jul, 2018 11:33 am

    I think everyone who travels Cathay agrees that the dining experience had to be upgraded, this looks the goods.
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Guest

21 Jul, 2018 12:11 pm

 Cartier Santos: the original pilot's watch, reimagined

Cartier Santos: the original pilot's watch, reimagined

Very few watches can claim true originality, and the Cartier Santos is among those few.

The Santos made its debut way back in 1904 as a personal timepiece for aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont, making it both the first pilot’s watch and one of the earliest known men’s wristwatches.

The story

As we've previously detailed, the Santos was borne from a request by Brazilian flyer Santos-Dumont, who told his friend Louis Cartier – then a Parisian watchmaker – of the challenge of timing flights using the then-conventional pocket watch, as pilots needed to keep both hands on the aircraft controls.

In response, Cartier designed a large square-faced watch and fitted it to a strap so it could be worn on the wrist – quite a revolutionary concept at the time.

The first commercial Cartier Santos watches went on sale to the public in 1911 with solid gold cases and ultra-thin mechanical movements designed by French clockmaker Edmond Jaeger.

(In order to produce this movement for Cartier, Jaeger worked with Swiss movement manufacturer Jacques-David LeCoultre, a partnership that would lead to the birth of storied brand Jaeger-LeCoultre.)

The enduring design of the Cartier Santos was reimagined in the late 1970s as a luxury steel sports watch, later adding two-tone steel and gold and the now-iconic screwed bezel with exposed gold screws along the bracelet for a modern, industrial aesthetic.

The style

For 2018, Cartier has once again re-invented the Santos.

The distinctive screw-set bezel now tapers at both ends towards the bracelet to create an organic, integrated look.

The satin-brushed case features a wide mirror-polished bevel along its length, extending all the way to the gracefully curved crown guards at 3 o’clock. A square watch the Santos may be, but there’s hardly a sharp edge or straight line to be found.

The case has been slimmed dramatically from previous incarnations of the Santos, allowing this watch to disappear easily under a shirt cuff when needed.

The bracelet is fitted with a new 'QuickSwitch' system allowing for easy swapping with the included tan calfskin strap or Cartier’s alternative crocodile straps, providing some style versatility.

Adding or removing bracelet links has also been made easier with a new 'SmartLink' design which allows the wearer to expand the bracelet during a hot summer’s day without requiring a tool.

While the bezel, case and bracelet have all been modernised, the dial remains classic Cartier. With Roman numerals, a railroad minute-track and heat-blued hands, it’s hard to imagine a more traditional look.

The 2018 Cartier Santos can serve dress-watch and sports-watch duties equally well, and boasts a history that few timepieces can match.

The details

• In-house mechanical movement with automatic winding
• Seven-sided crown set with a faceted synthetic spinel
• Silvered opaline dial, blued-steel sword-shaped hands, sapphire crystal
• Water-resistant to 10 bar (approximately 100 metres)
• Medium version case width: 35.1 mm, thickness: 8.83 mm
• Large version case width: 39.8 mm, thickness: 9.08 mm
• Pricing from A$8,750 for the Cartier Santos Medium in steel, to A$52,500 for the Cartier Santos Large in solid pink gold with matching pink gold bracelet. For stockists, visit www.au.cartier.com.

Jason Swire

Jason Swire (Jason Swire)

[email protected] /

Jason Swire is a Sydney-based writer, watch collector and author of 'Timely Advice', a beginner's guide to fine timepieces. His non-watch passions include hi-fi and whiskey, in that order.
 

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Guest

21 Jul, 2018 12:11 pm

Finnair flicks the switch on free WiFi for European flights

Finnair flicks the switch on free WiFi for European flights

Finnair will launch inflight Internet on its European flights this week, with travellers able to enjoy the high-speed satellite service free of charge during a two-month trial period running through to the end of September.

The Oneworld airline has already outfitted six of its single-aisle Airbus jets with technology provided through partner Viasat, which also provided the backbone for Qantas' Australia-wide WiFi system.

By the end of northern summer some 20 aircraft will be upgraded, with Finnair's entire single-aisle Airbus fleet slated for WiFi by mid-2019.

The system will be available on a gate-to-gate basis, so passengers won't even need to wait for their jet to reach level flight – which will maximise time online for many of Finnair's relatively short European hops.

However, parts of some European routes will present black spots to the satellite network, including above the Bay of Biscay and the North Sea, while some restrictions also apply over Latvia, Lithuania, parts of Belarus and Russia.

Over the two-month testing period Finnair intends to "gather information on system functionality and feedback on the overall customer experience."

"In entering the passenger testing phase, we’ll be gaining the critical insights needed to further optimise our service to ensure Finnair customers get a unique experience built around their needs, interests and usage behaviours," explains Viasat vice-president Don Buchman.

The airline has yet to reveal what pricing it will charge for its sky-high WiFi once the trial period ends, although frequent flyers will no doubt hope that some sort of monthly pass is available as an alternative to paying on a per-flight basis.

Finnair already offers WiFi on its long-range 'intercontinental' jets, with the first hour free for business class and Finnair Plus Gold members, then €3 (A$4.70) for three hours or €20 (A$31) for the entire flight. Finnair Plus Platinum frequent flyers are provided with free Internet access for the whole flight.

David Flynn

David Flynn (David)

[email protected] / @djsflynn

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.
 

2 Comments

  • eight10man

    eight10man

    20 Jul, 2018 06:19 pm

    Not sure how you can have black spots when using satellite internet.. especially when those black spots happen to be above the sea. Could it be this system is actually and ground-to-ground system maybe?
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  • readosunnycoast

    readosunnycoast

    20 Jul, 2018 10:35 pm

    Just flew BKK>>>HEL, A350 with wifi. Couldnt get a connection of any sort. Just kept message, don’t close the browser. I do hope it gets better for the next lot of passengers
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Guest

21 Jul, 2018 12:11 pm

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