Virgin Australia has begun charging travellers for high-speed inflight Internet on domestic flights, although slower connections will remain free of charge.
Prices will kick off at $8.99 per flight on shorter routes such as the Brisbane-Sydney and Sydney-Melbourne.
"Costs for high-speed services will vary depending on the length of the flight," a spokesperson for Virgin Australia tells Australian Business Traveller, describing the rollout as a "trial" which "is not restricted to specific routes."
"We expect guests will use up to 13Mbps for higher-bandwidth applications such as video streaming and downloading large files or attachments," the spokesperson says.
A standard connection for "basic Web browsing, email and social media" will be free, with Virgin predicting "most guests (will) use under 1Mbps for these services."
There's no word on if the airline will offer a monthly pass covering all WiFi flights – something which Virgin's technology partner Gogo currently sells for US$50/month on US carriers Alaska Airlines, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines.
Virgin Australia currently has a dozen WiFi-equipped Boeing 737s in the sky, delivering typical download speeds of 15-20Mbps free to all passengers since the service began its trial mode in April 2017.
The airline plans for most of its Boeing 737s to be sporting that tell-tale WiFi hump by year's end, with the stragglers being wired up – or maybe that should that be unwired – by January 2019.
The twin-aisle Airbus A330s most often seen on east-west flights will get their WiFi upgrade from late 2018 through to early 2020, the airline says.
At odds with Virgin's pricing strategy, Qantas will continue to keep its own inflight Internet free for all passengers.
Initial tests pegged the average download speeds for the Qantas WiFi service at 10-15Mbps, however Qantas says the updated ‘Generation 2’ technology now being fitted to its Boeing 737s will boost connection speeds as well as reliability compared to the Gen1 system of its first WiFi jet.
Several of Virgin’s international Boeing 777-300ER jets already offer Internet on flights between Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Los Angeles, with the service running in a free ‘public trial’ mode which will shift to a price-based system in May 2018 once all five jets have been upgraded.
Virgin has yet to reveal those pricing plans, including if they will be based on time connected or data consumed.
WiFi should also be available on Virgin's Boeing 737 flights to and from New Zealand, Fiji and Bali in the coming months.