Virgin Australia delays launch of paid WiFi until February 2018

Virgin Australia delays launch of paid WiFi until February 2018

Virgin Australia has pushed back on the introduction of paid WiFi on domestic flights, with 'faster-for-a-fee' connections now not expected to kick off until February 2018.

The airline previously said it would begin charging passengers for a high-speed WiFi service as January 1, 2018,

However, a spokesperson for Virgin Australia now tells Australian Business Traveller "we won’t be going live with the commercial model on our domestic fleet until early next year."

This means that travellers on the handful of Virgin's Boeing 737 jets fitted with the Gogo 2Ku satellite Internet tech  will still be able to enjoy free connections of around 15-20Mbps on domestic flights for another month or two.

Once Virgin's two-tier pricing model goes live, passengers will be able to tap into a basic or Standard connection for free, or paid for a High Speed service.

The airline could also reveal its WiFi plans for its New Zealand and Los Angeles flights at the same time as it reveals its domestic Internet pricing.

Read more: Qantas, Virgin Australia step up their sky-high WiFi dogfight

PREVIOUS | Virgin Australia will pull down the shutters on its free trial of inflight Internet at the end of this month as the airline begins to charge passengers for its high-speed WiFi service.

A spokesperson for Virgin Australia has confirmed to Australian Business Traveller that as of January 1 2018, Internet access on its domestic Boeing 737 jets will shift to a two-tier 'premium' model of Standard and High Speed services,

Travellers will be able to enjoy a Standard connection – sufficient for Web browsing, email, social media and messaging – free of charge.

The High Speed option, which allows video streaming and other data-intensive services, will come with a price tag which Virgin has yet to reveal, but is expected to do so in the coming week.

That price will keep you connected for the entire flight – which means we could see a relatively modest fee for quick jaunts such as Sydney-Melbourne but a more substantial sticker for Sydney-Perth.

Here's what else Virgin hasn't yet revealed about its 2018 WiFi plans.

How fast the High Speed connection will be: Virgin's inflight Internet service currently delivers typical download speeds of 15-20Mbps, based on our review.

All of that may be on tap for passengers who pony up the yet-to-be-shared fee, although you could comfortably stream HD video with 10Mbps to each device – and with 10Mbps being the average speed of an Aussie broadband connection (according to the Akamai State of the Internet Report), we'd suggest 10-15MBps would be sufficient for most high flyers.

How slow the Standard Connection will be: this is more the crux of the matter – not how fast the WiFi will be you pay, but how slow it'll be if you don't pay.

We expect Virgin Australia will put the brakes on per-device speeds to bring a free connection down to something under 5Mbps, and perhaps as little as 3Mbps – which sounds like "beggar's broadband" but is still usable for basic online activities such as the Web, email and social media.

Free connections will remain, but expect much slower speeds than during the trial period

If there'll be a monthly pass: beyond whatever price tag is attached to the High Speed packages for the duration of each flight, we're hoping that Virgin will also offer a monthly pass for frequent flyers.

The airline's Internet provider Gogo already has this set up for domestic US carriers at a flat US$50 per month on American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines or Vigin America.

However, Virgin doesn't need to rush this one.

The airline will have just three of its 78 Boeing 737-800 jets running WiFi by the end of this year – although it expects to reach the halfway mark around the middle of 2018.

"We'll be fitting one Boeing 737 aircraft (with WiFi) every eight days until the end of March 2018, and after that one aircraft will be completed every four days," a Virgin Australia spokesperson told Australian Business Traveller.

"The majority of our Boeing 737 aircraft are expected to be completed by the end of 2018, with only a handful to be completed in 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.

At odds with Virgin's two-speed strategy, Qantas will continue to keep its own inflight Internet free for all passengers.

Initial tests pegged 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.

International flights and WiFi fares

Virgin will extend its inflight Internet service to New Zealand and Los Angeles in an effort to gain a strategic advantage over Qantas, which is focussing first on its Australia-wide roll-out.

Barring any hardware hiccups, two of Virgin’s five Boeing 777-300ER jets will offer Internet on flights between Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Los Angeles by the end of December, initially in a free ‘public trial’ mode.

Sometime in early 2018 Virgin is expected to introduce its Standard and High Speed plans on those Australia-US flights, although both plans will come with a price tag.

Those prices will be discounted to an 'introductory special' rate until all five Boeing 777s are upgraded by May 2018, at which time the full pricing will kick in.

Virgin's Trans-Tasman Boeing 737s running between Australia and New Zealand – as well as those to Fiji and Bali – will be WiFi-equipped from early 2018, with pricing based on the length of the flight.

Read more: Virgin Australia: WiFi on trans-Tasman flights from early 2018

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.
 

18 comments

  • UpUpAndAway

    UpUpAndAway

    1 Dec, 2017 07:29 am

    Finally flew on a VA flight with wi-fi on Tuesday afternoon and got 1.59 mbs. My travelling companion got a similar result so I'm thinking emails are ok but our work files can be up to 10 gig in download so I don't think I am going to be getting to much extra work done in the golden triangle.
    No member give thanks

  • Tom Wilson

    tommygun

    1 Dec, 2017 07:35 am

    Emails yes. Attachments like photos, large docs ... 1.59 mbs...forget it. Not a complaint, just know the limitations and figure out of it's worth the time and effort.
    No member give thanks

  • David Flynn

    David

    1 Dec, 2017 08:10 am

    Yes, this is where it's good to either disable automatic downloading of attachments or use a Web-based interface for the likes of Gmail, Outlook etc so you have more control over those large files.
    No member give thanks

  • Scott Brown

    DownSouth

    1 Dec, 2017 10:45 am

    Why would Virgin suffer “hardware hiccups” on the 777 wifi introduction, and the stated Qantas 737 gen 2 wifi mod has no reference to possible ‘hardware hiccups’ What’s the difference.
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  • David Flynn

    David

    1 Dec, 2017 10:58 am

    Because the first Virgin Boeing 777 is done and the second is scheduled to be completed later this month, but it's going to be a close call and so if there's any delay there won't be two WiFi-equipped Boeing 777s flying by end of year, there will just be one.
    No member give thanks

  • Scott Brown

    DownSouth

    1 Dec, 2017 11:16 am

    Thanks David
    No member give thanks

  • Jay G

    jginpil

    1 Dec, 2017 11:26 am

    Any idea if this will be a status benefit for higher tier flyers in the future?
    No member give thanks

  • Dave

    Grannular

    1 Dec, 2017 01:07 pm

    If there was information, I am sure it would have been reported...
    No member give thanks

  • Blake

    Blake

    1 Dec, 2017 01:18 pm

    1.59mb for free, seriously? if thats a problem for anyone then just pay the premium. I'd be quite happy to be able to flick off a few emails and messages while 10km above the earth, and thats more than enough bandwidth by 10 fold. Im surprised the airlines are even aking the effort to provide such a high bandwidth to potentially 300 users streaming videos. I am not up to date with the technology but they would need enormous backhaul to cope with that.
    No member give thanks

  • P1

    P1

    1 Dec, 2017 02:21 pm

    Good work Virgin, now we can pay extra for what should be a basic service, AND have kids kicking the back of our seats incessantly with their sleeping bed attachments you have allowed their inconsiderate parents to use.
    No member give thanks

  • johnaboxall

    johnaboxall

    2 Dec, 2017 01:56 pm

    Inflight WiFi isn't a basic service. It's a cost that needs to be recovered. People lived without it for years so having to pay now isn't an issue if you need it.
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  • P1

    P1

    2 Dec, 2017 02:02 pm

    Tell that to Virgin when people switch to other carriers who do provide WIFI for free.
    No member give thanks

  • Scott Brown

    DownSouth

    2 Dec, 2017 02:33 pm

    P1
    You are provided free wifi on all domestic flights. You
    Can upgrade subject to a small fee for faster service. Look at the - responses on your post and you’ll see how out of sync you statements are with the majority view.
    There is free wifi to all passengers, and Virgin is the only Aus carrier rapidly providing wifi to LA, NZ, Asia, it’s the only Australian carrier you I’ll be able to use wifi on in 2018 period.
    Win win
    No member give thanks

  • P1

    P1

    2 Dec, 2017 03:18 pm

    DownSouth, all I can see is people who say the only way they can get downtime is to take a flight that has no WIFI. Sorry, that doesn't fly, anyone can turn their phone off, anywhere/anytime, if they don't want connectivity.

    Likewise, why would you limit your option to Australian carriers?
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  • johnaboxall

    johnaboxall

    4 Dec, 2017 11:43 am

    Duopoly. Just wait and see what QF come up with.
    No member give thanks

  • Bob Burgess

    Bob Burgess

    1 Dec, 2017 04:50 pm

    I'm okay with the basic concept suggested here, 3-5Mb/s is all you need for basic Web, email etc, if you want 10-15Mb/s then pay for it. People forget that WiFi isn't actually 'free' because somebody somewhere along the line has to pay for it. The model Virgin is following would see those who pay for the service effectively subsidising the free connection.
    No member give thanks

  • Boof

    Boof

    20 Dec, 2017 08:31 pm

    @David: Do you guys have the rego's of the "handful" of 737's with the internet available for VA? I know YIF and YIG have it but handful would suggest more are fitted that haven't been announced.
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  • David Flynn

    David

    20 Dec, 2017 08:34 pm

    Virgin told us earlier that a third Boeing 737 was due to be running WiFi by end of this month but we don't have the rego number (that's not the sort of thing we bother with).
    No member give thanks

Guest

23 Jul, 2019 09:05 am

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