Qatar Airways' Airbus A380s offer travellers 15 minutes of free inflight Internet access and a range of paid plans for further connectivity based on time spent online and the volume of data consumed.
Like most inflight WiFi services, Qatar's is available after the aircraft reaches cruising altitude, being switched off during take-off and landing.
Australian Business Traveller put the service to the test on a recent return trip from Sydney to Doha to bring you this review.
Qatar Airways Airbus A380 inflight Internet: plans
Before shelling out for one of the paid options, first take advantage of the free session offer, where you can browse for 15 minutes or download 10MB of data: whichever comes first.
It's a great way to test the service without actually paying for it, and if you have multiple devices such as a laptop, smartphone and a tablet, you can enjoy a separate free session on each gadget: with three devices, that provides for 45 minutes/30MB of browsing overall.
Further access costs are as follows and are billed to your credit card in US dollars:
- 30MB/one hour: US$5 (A$6.70)
- 100MB/three hours: US$10 (A$13.40)
- 200MB/duration of the flight: US$20 (A$26.80)
While it's great to see a variety of plans – particularly one that allows for a quick email check without paying for the entire flight – having data limits in addition to time limits is particularly restrictive when most airlines have either one or the other, not both.
For instance, a business traveller could buy the 'duration of flight' plan for US$20, hoping to keep in touch with the office throughout the flight, but could tear through their data entitlement rather quickly by sending email attachments or connecting to a corporate VPN: in which case they'd need to open their wallet once more, despite previously buying a plan designed to cover the entire trip.
Qatar Airways Airbus A380 inflight Internet: getting online
After making sure your device is switched to flight mode, enable WiFi, connect to the 'OnAir' hotspot and open your web browser to find the free 15-minute session waiting for you.
Even if tempted by one of the paid plans, just use the free one first: if nothing else, it's a way of testing that the Internet is actually working before you pay!
Just enter your email address and you'll be online in no time...
... and will soon be directed to the main WiFi screen which shows your flight information, flight number – useful when filling out the obligatory arrivals card – and how much data (although not time) you have remaining in your session.
Wondering if you should slip on a jacket before you land or change into a pair of shorts? You'll find the weather at your destination here too.
At this point, you're free to browse elsewhere and explore the Web, but you'll be directed back here once your Internet session has been used up.
This screen can also be used to pause your session: so if you're limited on data and are taking a moment to read an email or review a Word document, hit pause to make sure no data is wasted in the background.
Qatar Airways A380 inflight Internet: surfing speeds
Nobody expects download speeds on a plane to match what you'd get at home, although the speeds we experienced were certainly on the slower side of the inflight WiFi spectrum.
According to SpeedTest, our connection offered averaged downloads of 0.31Mbps, uploads of 0.5Mbps and ping speeds of 1942ms:
While that proved adequate for very basic web browsing and sending text-based messages via apps like Apple iMessage and Facebook Messenger, the connection wasn't fast enough to support large file downloads or Internet video streaming, as currently being tried by Qantas and Virgin Australia on Australian domestic flights: so take the time to enjoy Qatar Airways' inflight entertainment rather than your usual Netflix library!
The connection itself was very stable, however, with no noticeable dropouts during the time we spent online on both flights.
Overall, Qatar Airways' Airbus A380 inflight Internet service is certainly usable for basic business tasks, but we'd prefer to see the data caps axed in favour of timed browsing: or at least, no time limit where a data limit also applies.
Chris Chamberlin travelled to Doha as a guest of Qatar Airways.