Singapore Airlines' low-cost offshoot Scoot took the reins of its first Boeing 787 this month, with Panasonic-powered inflight wireless Internet access now beamed out from tip to tail.
Australian Business Traveller was aboard the Dreamliner's maiden flight from the Boeing factory in Seattle to Scoot's hub in Singapore, and put the airline's new Wi-Fi service to the test.
Scoot inflight Internet: getting online
Once the seatbelt sign is switched off, just connect to the 'ScootWiFi' hotspot, open your web browser and then try to surf – you'll be quickly directed to the Wi-Fi portal:
Just click 'Get Wi-Fi!', and as you did at the terminal, you'll need to pass through security screening before you can proceed:
You'll then spot the three available packages – US$11.95 (A$15.40) gets you online for an hour, US$16.95 (A$21.85) is good for three hours and US$21.95 ($28.25) covers you for the entire flight.
The price is the same whether you're connecting to the 'Net from your laptop, smartphone or tablet, which is a little rough when most airlines charge different rates for different sized gadgets.
That 24-hour pass also works on any onward, Wi-Fi-equipped Scoot flights within that time period – a feature that will become more valuable once the airline completes its transition to an all-Dreamliner fleet.
Until then, the 24-hour package is still the best value if you're aiming to browse for more than three hours, which you'll have to cough up even in you're flying in 'ScootBiz' business class.
You're then prompted to create a Deutsche Telekom 'HotSpot' account or to sign in if you've used the service before.
Other airlines such as Etihad and Japan Airlines also use Deutsche Telekom as their service provider, so if you've connected to Etihad Wi-Fly or JAL Sky Wi-FI in the past, the same email address and password can be used here.
Then enter your PayPal or credit card details – either Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club, Discover or JCB – or use an existing credit card saved in your DT account, and you'll be online and ready to browse within moments:
Scoot inflight Internet: surfing the Web
Although the Dreamliner delivery flight was from the USA to Singapore with a quick stop in Osaka, it gave me around 19 hours on board to test the Wi-Fi in the various stages of the journey.
That includes straight after take-off before anyone else had connected to the service, at peak times when nearly every passenger was trying to tweet photos from the aircraft, when most were sleeping and again closer to Singapore.
At first I was able to achieve download speeds of 6.59Mbps, uploads speeds of 0.09Mbps and pings of 808ms – what you'd realistically expect of most satellite Internet connections – although that upload speed is on the lower side.
Speeds plummeted to 0.35Mbps down and 0.01Mbps up after approximately 40 passengers had connected, with pings speeds roughly doubling and making the Internet practically unusable.
After this initial surge, download speeds increased to an acceptable 1.02Mbps with uploads bumping up slightly to 0.03Mbps – enough to browse the AusBT website or send a text-based email, although if you were hoping to share your journey live on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you'll need to be extremely patient.
Roughly two hours before arriving in Singapore the US Super Bowl final kicked off, and with the aircraft's home team (the Seattle Seahawks) in with a shot at victory, Scoot CEO Campbell WIlson whipped out his laptop to watch the game live over the Internet:
We joined the viewing party – most passengers had disconnected from the Internet at this point of the flight, which made the streaming video relatively fluid – and with only a few pauses and digital artifacts to interrupt the game.
Otherwise, we experienced only one connection outage during the journey. You can confirm that the connection is actually down rather than just overly slow by returning to the Scoot hotspot homepage from your browser history:
After just a few minutes the Internet had returned without incident.
Scoot inflight Internet: the verdict
While struggling to cope with a cohort of passengers intent on uploading image-heavy stories, tweets and Facebook posts, we don't realistically see a drop in speed being a pressing issue on regular, commercial Scoot flights.
Many Scoot passengers opt to save dosh by foregoing the traditional adjustable headrest in economy, so it's doubtful that these travellers are the ones willing to fork out $15-30 on top of their ticket price to share a selfie on social media.
And with inflight AC power costing an extra S$5-8 down the back of the bus, even if they do connect, they'll either deplete their battery or have to cough up extra to keep their gadgets running.
Instead, we see the 24-hour pass being most popular with business travellers and the self-employed in 'ScootBiz' – the airline's premium cabin with larger seats, more space to work and free AC power outlets in every seat:
Read our review: Scoot's Boeing 787 Dreamliner ScootBiz seats
Sure, the odd leisure traveller will enjoy the novelty of surfing at 40,000 feet and might take the one or three-hour option to give it a whirl and consume some bandwidth, but we'd peg the most frequent users as business travellers more concerned with emails than Instagram.
As it happens, text-based emails use relatively little data, and with no download limit, business travellers can also send and receive attachments without issue – landing Scoot our four-star rating.
Chris Chamberlin was travelling as a guest of Scoot and Boeing.
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