Qantas, Virgin Australia stream ahead with domestic WiFi in 2019

Qantas, Virgin Australia stream ahead with domestic WiFi in 2019

Qantas and Virgin Australia have both passed the halfway mark in their rollout of domestic WiFi, giving passengers a 50/50 chance that their next flight will allow them to stay connected above the clouds.

Here’s where the two airlines stand in the sky-high WiFi stakes.

A spokesman for Qantas tells Australian Business Traveller that as at the start of January, its high-speed Internet system was installed on 42 of the airline’s target of 75 Boeing 737 jets, with the remainder to be upgraded by the end of 2019.

However, this falls short of previous promises that all of the singe-aisle Boeing workhorses would be WiFi-equipped “by early 2019”.

The spokesman said the extended rollout schedule is due to “prioritising network availability and also trying to match up WiFi installation with other scheduled maintenance so that aircraft aren’t being pulled out of service unnecessarily.”

“Our engineering and network schedule does fluctuate and is always being revised… it’s a balance of getting WiFi installed while not impacting scheduled services.”

Qantas has also begun adding inflight Internet to the larger Airbus A330s typically seen on east-west routes, with one of the twin-aisle jets already sporting that tell-tale dome antenna and four more due to be upgraded by the end of the March. Five more A330s will be WiFi-enabled by the end of 2019.

All of these will offer Qantas’ free broadband-grade Internet service, which regularly clocks around 10-15Mbps, with new software updates arriving to further improve the service.

Virgin Boeing 737 WiFi pushed back to 2020

Virgin Australia also claims to have WiFi on 42 of its 80-odd domestic Boeing 737s “with the majority of the fleet to be completed this calendar year” – indicating that the airline’s complete Boeing 737 fleet won’t be Internet-enabled until sometime in 2020.

Virgin will start adding WiFi to its A330s aircraft from February, with the six-strong fleet “to be completed later this year”.

This will also see Internet offered on the A330’s international routes to Hong Kong.

Virgin’s domestic WiFi will remain free for a ‘basic’ 1Mbps connection suitable for social media, email and undemanding Web browsing, with a 12Mbps high-speed option available at prices starting from $9 per flight.

Inflight Internet on Virgin’s international routes starts from $7 per hour on trans-Tasman flights and $9 per hour to the USA, with per-flight passes at $13 and $20 respectively.

However, this year Virgin will add what its terms a “multi-use product” covering several international flights rather than passengers having to pay on a per-flight basis.

This could take the form of a single higher-priced “pass” valid across a series of WiFi flights – something which Virgin’s US technology partner Gogo already offers at US$50 per month for for the likes of Alaska Airlines, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines.

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.
 

31 comments

  • Rigs

    Rigs

    10 Jan, 2019 07:58 am

    Free faster internet would be a great platinum frequent flyer perk.
    Members who gave thanks

    thegurio, madboyprice

  • Dave

    Grannular

    10 Jan, 2019 08:35 am

    I was on a Qantas A332 with the telltale Wifi hump on Christmas morning. Was disappointed to find it wasn't enabled. Was keen to give it a try over to Perth
    Member who gave thanks

    Frank

  • moa999

    moa999

    10 Jan, 2019 10:43 am

    Airliners.net list by qf789 list four aircraft (EBB, EBC, EBD and EBL with the hump) but possibly only switched on EBB which was the designated trial aircraft.
    No member give thanks

  • Dave

    Grannular

    10 Jan, 2019 11:07 am

    That makes sense. Just checked FR24 and my flight was on EBD
    No member give thanks

  • Scott Brown

    DownSouth

    10 Jan, 2019 09:02 am

    That schedule would put Virgin on top in the Wifi rollout, all 777’s to the US fitted and operating, Wifi already available on Tasman and pacific, and on par with 737 and 330 QF domestic rollout.
    Member who gave thanks

    thegurio

  • Bob Burgess

    Bob Burgess

    10 Jan, 2019 09:36 am

    No, it would put Virgin behind Qantas in the Boeing 737 WiFi rollout. It would give Virgin the edge overall when you look at international WiFi but not domestic Boeing 737s and taking fleet size into account, not domestic A330s either.
    No member give thanks

  • Scott Brown

    DownSouth

    10 Jan, 2019 09:45 am

    QF 42 737’s done VA 42 737’s done thats about as even as possible. 330 QF 1 , VA 0, both fleets fully fitted by end of this calander year, this info is all contained in the above article, I don’t know how much more even that could be.
    No member give thanks

  • reeves35

    reeves35

    10 Jan, 2019 05:09 pm

    As at 20/12/18, apparently the correct count for VA 737s fitted with wifi is 56. Most of these are the newer planes that also have BSI and will probably in the fleet the longest.
    No member give thanks

  • Scott Brown

    DownSouth

    10 Jan, 2019 06:13 pm

    If that’s the case reeves35 and 56 737’s are fitted, Virgin are way out in front, and will offer a standard WIFI offering international and domestic by years end.
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  • David Flynn

    David

    11 Jan, 2019 12:59 am

    Unsure where that 'correct count' comes from, but our number of 42 came from Virgin Australia earlier this week. Note that this article is about domestic WiFi and so perhaps Virgin's tally to us was for Boeing 737s doing domestic duties, as this would preclude those on NZ runs?
    No member give thanks

  • wayne anstey

    john wayne

    10 Jan, 2019 09:15 am

    Such a rabid fixation with staying "connected". Spend the time disconnected from the ground and other things. If you feel your workplace needs you to be connected every minute you fly........change jobs.
    Member who gave thanks

    JKH

  • Bob Burgess

    Bob Burgess

    10 Jan, 2019 09:39 am

    I can go without WiFi on a SYD-MEL hop but for a SYD-PER flight especially when it takes up a big chunk of my working day, I would find WiFi very handy and very welcome. And while I work for myself, not everybody has the luxury to 'change jobs' just because their company expects them to be productive during a daytime flight and not everybody finds it that much of an issue, I think.
    Member who gave thanks

    JKH

  • songman

    songman

    10 Jan, 2019 01:32 pm

    On a transcontinental flight which takes up most of the working day, I can be far more productive with internet access. If I feel like relaxing, then inflight internet certainly won't prevent me from doing so.
    No member give thanks

  • GBRGB

    GBRGB

    10 Jan, 2019 10:16 am

    With the growth of QLink 717 services to more destinations and more regularly I think it is a bit hollow of QF to say they are offering Wi Fi on their domestic services.
    No member give thanks

  • reeves35

    reeves35

    10 Jan, 2019 12:46 pm

    I notice that the A330s currently fitted are principally the older ex-"Cityflyer" A332s which principally concentrate on domestic services with only occassional int'l services. I assume this means they are fitted with the same domestic "Skymuster" based solution as the 737s rather than the completely international system that QF will install on the A380s and 787s. Does anybody know if this is correct?
    No member give thanks

  • David Flynn

    David

    10 Jan, 2019 01:31 pm

    That’s correct - the domestic Qantas A330s use the same WiFi system as the domestic Boeing 737s. The system to be used for Qantas’ international flights is still some years away.
    No member give thanks

  • Jon W

    Jon W

    10 Jan, 2019 01:31 pm

    I used the WiFi on the VA CBR-BNE and BNE-MKY legs and it worked quite well and was more than sufficient for a bit of work (via VPN), browsing and whatnot. My guess is that (like Gogo in the US) the speeds they state are underestimates to avoid disappointment and you really wouldn't need anything more unless you're streaming movies.

    If only the lounge WiFi was as good!
    No member give thanks

  • Blake

    Blake

    10 Jan, 2019 02:22 pm

    I wish they could work out a way to give us some basic email, web, and IM access only, instead of accomadating those tossers who are streaming video and any other high bandwidth services and compromising the service for others and costing the airlines much more to provide it.
    No member give thanks

  • reeves35

    reeves35

    10 Jan, 2019 05:12 pm

    Isn't that precisely what the basic (and free) VA wifi offering provides?
    No member give thanks

  • Adam T

    AT

    10 Jan, 2019 05:10 pm

    I just flew QF Sydney Perth return on 737s over NY break and had WiFi both ways, it was fantastic so fast, able to watch movies on iPad without a buffer and flights were full each way and I’m sure a lot of people were connected which didn’t slow it down, and on QF it’s free! Reading this article looks like Virgin are charging!!! Just yet another reason on top of many to keep flying QF!
    No member give thanks

  • reeves35

    reeves35

    10 Jan, 2019 05:37 pm

    Being free is great but I don't quite understand why QF felt they had to give the service away.

    The investment to introduce wifi is obviously significant. People understand that data costs money; they pay for it on their mobile and they pay for it on their home internet connection. Why would they expect that, for some reason, the airlines should give it away for nothing?
    No member give thanks

  • Scott Brown

    DownSouth

    10 Jan, 2019 06:17 pm

    Virgins basic domestic WIFI offering is free.
    No member give thanks

  • patrickk

    patrickk

    10 Jan, 2019 07:36 pm

    The reason it is free is to attract customers. The same reason (unlike the US) that baggage check in is free. Jetstar is there if you wish to pay, and I am sure they will have wi-fi soon for a price.
    No member give thanks

  • Trent Rawlings

    rawlint

    11 Jan, 2019 03:36 pm

    I always find wifi a good to have and 90 per cent of my flights with VA have it onboard.

    Is it just me or do most of the articles about wifi use Qantas branding for some reason with ABT?
    No member give thanks

  • David Flynn

    David

    11 Jan, 2019 04:09 pm

    Hi Rawlint - we use PR pics as supplied by the airlines and Qantas has supplied more & better pics than Virgin.

    No member give thanks

  • Trent Rawlings

    rawlint

    11 Jan, 2019 04:16 pm

    Ok thanks David
    No member give thanks

  • JanJ

    JanJ

    11 Jan, 2019 04:05 pm

    Travelled Qantas Alice Springs to Melbourne return recently and there was great wifi on both flights.
    No member give thanks

  • VV

    Valerio

    11 Jan, 2019 10:08 pm

    Just played with the free wifi on Virgin on MEL-SYD over past two days and was surprised that on a quieter flight I was able to even view instagram stories (albeit with a fair bit of buffering).
    100% agree with previous comment that free high-speed wifi should be a platinum perk - would be attractive and useful to regular fliers.
    No member give thanks

  • Bek

    Bek

    12 Jan, 2019 12:12 pm

    What happened to the wifi installs on QF's A380s? Surely they didn't just toss everything out when they (stupidly) decided to close the service after trialling it a few years ago. Would have thought they could at least get those re-started for international flights.
    No member give thanks

  • moa999

    moa999

    12 Jan, 2019 06:03 pm

    Waiting for the new ViaSat3 Ka band satellites to launch which should provide similar bandwidth and speeds to the NBN satellites.

    Remember their previous A380 trial had speeds of 0.1Mbps and 35Mb limits.

    Member who gave thanks

    Bek

  • George Le Souef

    Geo

    13 Jan, 2019 06:51 am

    Will they worry about fitting on Qantas link fleet? 717s run Wi-Fi streaming so hopefully?
    No member give thanks

Guest

27 Jun, 2019 10:56 am

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