EXCLUSIVE | Qantas will push back the installation of inflight Internet to its domestic Airbus A330 fleet until 2019, with the extensive upgrade tipped to stretch through into 2020.
The airline originally suggested its first Airbus A330s – which tend to dominate the transcontinental corridor between Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth – would be fitted with the fast and free satellite-based WiFi service from "early 2017", and later pushed that back to "early 2018."
However, Australian Business Traveller has learned that the domestic A330-200 jets now won't be kitted out for sky-high surfing until the start of 2019, with the 12-strong fleet unlikely to be completed until early 2020.
A Qantas spokesperson confirmed that "almost all of the domestic A330s will be equipped during 2019."
"While the fitout of each aircraft takes about a week to complete, we need to combine it with periodic heavy maintenance to avoid disrupting our schedule."
The tardy twin-aisles will also delay the completion target for Qantas' domestic fleet, which the airline has previously said would be "upgraded by the end by the end of 2018."
Qantas' decision will disappoint many business travellers who regularly tackle the popular east-west routes, spending around five hours each way – often the better part of their working day – in the air but out of touch with the office.
However, it won't hand much of an advantage to challenger Virgin Australia, which has previously said it won't begin its own Airbus A330 WiFi overhaul until late 2018, with the upgrade for its six jets stretching out to 2020.
At least two of those jets will be dedicated to Virgin's growing Asian network, which from the second half of this year will see Sydney-Hong Kong flights added to the current Melbourne-Hong Kong route.
Meanwhile, bringing Qantas WiFi to the airline's workhorse Boeing 737s remains largely on track.
"We currently have WiFi fitted to 22 aircraft and expect to have 40 by the middle of the year," the spokesperson said. "By the end of 2018, the vast majority of the Boeing 737 fleet will be completed."