Your WiFi options for domestic Qantas, Virgin Australia flights

Your WiFi options for domestic Qantas, Virgin Australia flights

For domestic business travellers, 2018 is shaping up to be The Year of WiFi.

It's the year that has seen inflight Internet take off – quite literally so – as Qantas and Virgin Australia outfit their domestic jets with satellite tech which lets you stay online while you're en route.

How many domestic aircraft are WiFi-enabled?

The Boeing 737 is the workhorse of Qantas and Virgin Australia's domestic fleets, ranging from the east coast's busy and lucrative 'golden triangle' (also sometimes called the 'golden boomerang') arcing between Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne through to some transcontinental flights.

But how likely is is that you'll set foot onto a Boeing 737 sporting WiFi?

As of mid-July Qantas has 30 Boeing 737s fitted with high-speed Internet out of a total domestic fleet of 68, so that's almost a 50/50 chance that your next Qantas Boeing 737 flight will be on a WiFi jet.

There's a 50/50 chance that your next Qantas Boeing 737 flight will have WiFi

Virgin Australia's tally is 24 upgraded Boeing 737s from a domestic fleet of 69, giving travellers a 1-in-3 chance of stepping onto a WiFi jet.

A third of Virgin Australia's domestic Boeing 737s now feature WiFi

Both Qantas and Virgin Australia expect the majority of their domestic Boeing 737s will have been upgraded to WiFi by the end of 2018 – closing the gap to the point where the availability of WiFi becomes an expectation and the lack of it a frustration – with fleet-wide fitout by early 2019.

When it comes to the Airbus A330s most often seen on east-west flights, Qantas expects its first red-tailed A330 with WiFi will take to the skies later this month, with most of the 12-strong domestic A330 fleet getting wired (or should that be unwired?) by year's end.

Qantas will begin flying WiFi-enabled A330s by the end of July 2018

Virgin Australia says it won't be fitting out its fleet of six A330s – only four of which are rostered onto Australian routes – until the beginning of next year, stretching through to mid-2019.

How fast is Australian inflight WiFi?

Having WiFi is one thing – having a fast (and stable) connection that's usable is something else.

Fortunately, the satellite technology used by Qantas and Virgin Australia is capable of delivering a reliable 10-15Mbps to your laptop, tablet or smartphone.

That's as fast as most home ADSL 2+ connections – which means you're enjoying high-speed broadband in the sky, and sufficient to stream HD video if you're so inclined.

The main difference here is the cost of staying connecting above the clouds.

High-speed WiFi is free on all domestic Qantas flights. Connect to the aircraft's hotspot, enter your name and seat number, and you're online.

Virgin Australia charges for high-speed inflight Internet on domestic flights, with prices kicking off at $8.99 per flight on short routes such as Brisbane-Sydney and Sydney-Melbourne. That'll get you the bandwidth you need for streaming content or downloading large files.

If your online needs are more modest, Virgin offers what it terms as a 'standard' connection of 1Mbps for free. This is suitable "simple Web browsing, email, instant messaging and social media."

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.
 

11 comments

  • mviy

    mviy

    19 Jul, 2018 12:24 am

    It's certainly going to shake things up.

    Though smaller planes such as the 717 planes that QF uses aren't getting WiFi.
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  • moa999

    moa999

    19 Jul, 2018 10:11 am

    And VA will also have the advantage Trans Tasman as it's GoGo/Optus Ku satellite has greater coverage than Qantas's ViaSat/NBN based Ka satellite.

    From NBN maps, QF should work over Bass Straight and the Great Australian Bight

    Albeit I think QFs solution should provide faster speeds under load.
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  • reeves35

    reeves35

    19 Jul, 2018 01:29 pm

    VA has the same solution globally which whilst it may be slightly slower does add flexibility. QF's SkyMuster based domestic solution is obviously limited to the Australian continent so the int'l fleet will have a different solution. The only limitation here will be when a domestic A332 carries out an int'l flight which is quite likely.

    Having said that, on a flight to SIN, for example, the domestic solution would remain available for half the flight anyway. As long as the restriction is announced, just as VA does with the GoGo black spot just west of LA, I can't see this provoking too much angst.
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  • moa999

    moa999

    19 Jul, 2018 03:01 pm

    Agreed. It appears that Qantas will be using ViaSats new Ka based ViaSat-3 satellites (the Asian one wont be in service until 2022/2023 it seems).

    Will be interesting to see whether a bump appears on the A380s as they get refurbed - would make sense to install all the wiring then, and possibly just have access to SkyMuster and the Viasat-3 EMEA and Americas satellites first (expected late 2020 and 2021 respectively)
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  • acidsquash

    acidsquash

    19 Jul, 2018 06:30 pm

    Is there a list of wifi equipped Qantas 737s around?
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  • P1

    P1

    20 Jul, 2018 02:23 pm

    It might be starting to "take off for Qantas domestic" but they are MANY years behind the market leaders like Emirates, Singapore Air, ANA, JAL etc who have been giving their customers WIFI access for many years, all the while Qantas were denying their customers wanted it.

    When will I be able to fly Qantas International and have WIFI???
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  • traveller99

    traveller99

    20 Jul, 2018 10:16 pm

    True, but Emirates wifi is (still) shockingly slow and almost useless. I've used it on six separate flights in the last couple of years, most recently a few months back. It is essentially unusable for anything but the most basic Smartphone functions (messaging and text emails). Don't even bother trying to use it on your laptop.
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  • Bob Rogers

    Paddy1916

    22 Jul, 2018 02:40 pm

    True, it’s almost useless.
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  • inkymath

    inkymath

    20 Jul, 2018 04:17 pm

    David, as at end December 2017, QF had 75 737’s in its domestic fleet. On that basis the likelihood of getting an aircraft fitted with wifi is actually only 40%. Seems to me the rollout of wifi domestically is slower that what was expected.
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  • moa999

    moa999

    20 Jul, 2018 06:37 pm

    From what I've seen they are outfitting about one a week.

    From an oldish list on airliners.net, it's mostly the younger VZx and XZx registrations that have Inflight Internet at present.
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  • traveller99

    traveller99

    20 Jul, 2018 10:14 pm

    I'd be happy to be a per flight fee, or a monthly/yearly subscription. Or make it free for Platinum members.

    I'd be happy to pay a monthly fee of $30-$40. Or a domestic per flight fee of say $5 (short flight) to $10 (long flight).

    As onboard wifi becomes more well publicised and the normal thing for passengers to use, then we're surely going to see degradation in speed.

    Qantas should go the Virgin route. Have a "free" solution that is speed capped at 1mbps, and then a paid version that has the faster speeds.
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Guest

18 Jul, 2019 11:48 pm

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