Cathay Pacific's new Airbus A350 doesn't just offer new seats in business class, premium economy and economy, it also provides travellers with access to inflight Internet as they soar above the clouds.
Priced from US$9.95, it's an affordable way to keep in touch on social media, with your loved ones back home and of course the office, which Australian Business Traveller put to the test on a recent flight aboard Cathay Pacific's first Airbus A350.
Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 inflight Internet: plans
Cathay's access plans are all fortunately based on time rather than data consumption, and are the same price whether connecting via a smartphone, tablet or laptop:
- One hour: US$9.95 (A$13.40)
- Duration of flight (up to six hours): US$12.95 (A$17.45)
- Duration of flight (over six hours): US$19.95 (A$26.85)
... although the desktop version of the WiFi portal initially offered the higher US$19.95 price in error... ... before realising its mistake and correcting to the lower price on the payment screen: Cathay Pacific had earlier advised that complimentary vouchers would also be issued to selected travellers, such as top Marco Polo Club members, but the crew on our flight had no voucher codes to provide.
Cathay Pacific inflight Internet: getting online
As with most aircraft, the inflight WiFi service clicks on above 10,000 feet, so trying to connect while on the ground won't prove a success: Once airborne, however, the WiFi portal comes in a variety of languages such as English plus Asian and European tongues including German – appropriate when one of the A350's first long-haul routes is between Hong Kong and Dusseldorf, Germany, from later this year.
Then it's as simple as choosing your price, creating a CX WiFi account or logging in to one you've created earlier and entering your credit card details.
Then you're online, and if you only needed the hour-long plan and keep the same browser page open, it's a helpful reminder of how much time you have remaining:
A little tip: All plans can be used on more than one device, but only one device at a time.
Just note that the specific expiry time shown is based on your gadget's local clock, so on our smartphone which was set to Hong Kong time the expiry appeared as 11:17am, while on our laptop which retained Sydney time, was displayed as 13:17 or 1:17pm.
The countdown clock remains accurate in either case, however, and despite what the airline had announced previously, we're told the inflight WiFi service now works over China which will come in handy as the A350's European flights begin.
Cathay Pacific A350 inflight Internet: surfing speeds
We always expect relatively slow speeds from inflight Internet services, but were pleasantly surprised to see downloads clocking in at 2.46Mb/s.
That's certainly not fast, but it's most usable and works just fine when browsing the Web from your seat in the sky. Uploads were predictably slower at 0.24Mb/s, while ping speeds were measured at 1,118ms.
In other words, the Internet worked just fine without being as fast as you'd get on the ground, with tasks like sending email attachments and pictures slower than general surfing.
As an added bonus, you can also use the inflight Internet system to access the route map and the progress of your flight, whether you've purchased a plan or not... ... can see how long you have both until landing and until the Internet system becomes unavailable, and can even browse sightseeing suggestions and food and beverage top picks for your destination:
All in all, Cathay Pacific's Airbus A350 inflight Internet service is a solid product at a reasonable price for both business and leisure travellers jetting about on the airline's newest aircraft.
Chris Chamberlin travelled as a guest of Cathay Pacific.
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