Qantas rethinks inflight Internet for Airbus A380, domestic routes

Qantas rethinks inflight Internet for Airbus A380, domestic routes

Qantas could offer satellite Internet access on its flagship Airbus A380 flights to the USA as well as on selected domestic routes, CEO Alan Joyce tells Australian Business Traveller.

Sky-high surfing is back on the Flying Kangaroo's watchlist now that American Airlines' Boeing 777 flights between Sydney and Los Angeles feature WiFi as part of the inflight experience.

Qantas first trialled inflight WiFi in 2012 but experienced minimal take-up rates on its A380 services, with less than 5% of passengers logging on.

Speaking of that trial at a media lunch in Sydney last week, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said that “it didn’t really work well across the Pacific because I think people were sleeping a lot and not using it, but we’re very keen to continue to explore it.”

Joyce admits to Australian Business Traveller that Qantas is keeping a firm watch on American Airlines, saying that “it’ll be interesting to see what (AA) finds out with its (Sydney-LAX) flight in uptake.”

“If that’s significant, we’ll be very keen to introduce on-board WiFi… it’s only a matter of time when we do it, and it’s only a matter of us having it everywhere at the same time and not having it patchy and working only in certain zones at certain times, which just causes confusion for our customers.”

WiFi for Aussie flights, too

On the domestic front, Qantas could be an early customer for the NBN's new Sky Muster satellites which begin beaming broadband across Australia from the middle of 2016.

Australia’s vast size combined with its population distribution makes ground-to-air Internet technologies such as Gogo – used heavily in the USA – largely impractical on domestic flights, with satellite-based services showing much more promise as both speed and coverage improve.

Currently, “Australia hasn’t got the satellite coverage that North America has,” Joyce highlights. “Many parts of our country don’t have anybody in them, and as a consequence the satellite coverage was never there, so it’s very hard for us to offer (inflight Internet across Australia) – it’s very patchy.

“But that is changing... the NBN satellite just went up a couple of weeks ago and that’s going to change the coverage, and I think that may make certain domestic operations more appealing, and that’s not that long away.”

Also read: Telstra tests 4G inflight Internet for Sydney-Melbourne route

AA CEO: WiFi loses money, but it’s needed

With the proliferation of inflight Internet aboard US-based carriers, American Airlines Chairman and CEO Doug Parker explains to Australian Business Traveller that “it doesn’t matter what the take-up rates are, it’s never going to pay for the cost of carrying the WiFi...”

“… but what we know is that in the United States, it’s gotten to where if we don’t provide WiFi for customers, then it’s an enormous problem because it becomes something that needs to be part of the product,” Parker elaborates.

Thus, the airline hasn’t projected its WiFi take-up rates to and from Sydney, but notes that WiFi is most popular on its Dallas-Hong Kong services – the longest flights in the airline’s network – with passengers paying a flat US$19 (A$27) fee for unlimited access until touchdown.

Pricing can vary on other routes, such as on LAX-JFK where it's US$33.95...

Parker continues that “as much as some of us might like the possibility of being out-of-touch for 10 to 12 hours, there are a lot of people who just can’t do that and don’t want to do it, and if we give them the opportunity, they’re willing to pay for it.”

Also read: Which airlines offer inflight Internet access from Australia?

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT

Chris Chamberlin
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!
 

11 comments

  • riley

    riley

    19 Nov, 2015 11:11 am

    Was only a matter of time before that confirmation bias within Qantas succumbed to actual market demands.

    Think daytime departure within 90 minutes of eachother, flying to LA, one has a choice of WiFi, the other doesn't. The later flight option now removed. Business decision makers would surely opt for the WiFi enabled option. If I were pitching to businesses as AA, I'd be making a very strong case for productivity. (yes I'm aware it's a JV.)

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  • traveller99

    traveller99

    19 Nov, 2015 11:13 am

    About bloody time!  I fly a lot domestically in the USA and buy a 30 day pass when I go there.  $50USD gives me unlimited wifi when I'm in the air. 

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  • Shaun Amy

    ausnetman

    19 Nov, 2015 12:08 pm

    Last week I booked a flight to the US for next June.  I chose the QF codeshare on AA metal so I would have WiFi coverage and complete some work (the trip is actually a holiday) in the first few hours of the flight out of Sydney (afternoon, local time).  The later departure also suited me as well.

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  • stevo1702

    stevo1702

    19 Nov, 2015 12:29 pm

    I initially missed the comma in this article’s title and certainly raised an eyebrow. 

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  • ny152

    ny152

    19 Nov, 2015 09:24 pm

    We really need this for LHR- SYD/MEL routes!  A quick check at Dubai is great but it would be reassuring to be able to check in on the 14 hr stretch between DXB and SYD, no one would be sleeping that entire time!

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  • RWGW100

    RWGW100

    20 Nov, 2015 10:16 am

    Good to hear that Qantas will now get "on-line" again. But what will be the cost?

    I'm sure thast the very low take-up rate before was because of the very high price - it was a real disincentive.

    We can hope that Qanta will match Emirates - U$1..00 for more than internet usage than most prople would ever need of a sinlge sector - but I somehow doubt it!

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  • Anthony Spasevski

    Zaps1971

    20 Nov, 2015 10:27 am

    Back in 2012 I did the A380 First Class and that is when Qantas had the WiFi across the pacific.

    As I first passanger you would thing Qantas would give it to you for free right? Hell no, it was some stupid amount of money..

    As Alan Joyce said, I thing people sleep alot and dont use it!!!

    Drop the price dowm on the WiFi Alan and YES people wil use it Alan simple.

     

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  • richieduck

    richieduck

    20 Nov, 2015 11:04 am

    Maybe Qantas should focus on upgrading it's planes.  Have been flying the Melb Brisane route lately and a lot of the 737 800's still have the fold down screens from the roof for their IFE.... Looking very tired at the moment compared to Virgin.  And when the planes do have the screens on the back of the seats quite often the video or the sound does not work.   

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  • Hugh McGarry

    Journeyman

    20 Nov, 2015 12:04 pm

    So now people sleep a lot and don't use wifi? Does this mean we'll now have to put up with the chattering classes braying loudly on their Skype, WhatsApp etc voice apps while many less desparate people just want to sleep. 

    I'd view a wifi free business class as a positive and vote with my bum.

    C'm on people untether, look out the window, read a book or kindle, reflect and just enjoy the brief hours of some freedom.

     

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  • devilish

    devilish

    20 Nov, 2015 12:52 pm

    That is the most annoying thing in the lounge before a flight, people trying to speak over eachother and yelling about their work/jobs on skype/mobile phones. All I want is a place to relax for 30mins before the flight.

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  • Steve Atkin

    donk1

    21 Nov, 2015 12:29 am

    Rubbish Mr Joyce. Australia is covered by up to 5 different satellites at any one time for TV, internet & satellite mobile coverage & aircraft communications. Internet connection on aircraft in Australia will be a straightforward procedure. There will be dropout points for some international flights , but the next available satellite will generally bridge that gap. Australia has generally got better coverage than most other parts of the world. 

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Guest

25 May, 2019 03:25 pm

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