Virgin Australia aims to expand its inflight Internet service to cover the USA and Asia while also building up its domestic fleet of WiFi-equipped jets.
The airline, which is nearing the end of a three-month trial, has just upgraded its second Boeing 737 with Gogo’s 2Ku technology.
“But we’ll be doing the whole fleet, Airbus A330s and Boeing 777s, and we’ll have WiFi on Asia and US routes soon,” Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti told Australian Business Traveller during the airline’s inaugural flight from Melbourne to Hong Kong.
How soon, we pressed? “Very soon,” Borghetti teased.
“It’s just a matter of scheduling – when you’ve got over 100 aeroplanes, you want to try and (upgrade) them when you are doing heavy maintenance.”
The free trial of Virgin’s inflight WiFi service has seen passengers enjoying typical download speeds of 15-20Mbps.
Virgin hasn’t revealed if the service will remain free after the trial period, but is believed to be leaning towards letting travellers choose between two levels of service: a Basic connection suitable for Web browsing, email and social media, and a High Speed pipeline for streaming video from the likes of Netflix.
In a survey sent to selected Virgin Australia passengers earlier this year, Virgin pitched a Basic connection at between $8 and $14 per flight, with the High Speed alternative at $15 to $21 per flight.
However, Virgin also allowed that “on some flights the price could be free, or the first 30 minutes could be free.”
Qantas will seek to differentiate its own Qantas WiFi service by offering it free for all passengers.
However, the Flying Kangaroo’s focus is firmly on its extensive domestic network, with ten Boeing 737s being upgraded to the NBN satellite tech in time for an official launch of the service in September this year.
While the airline says it’s considering extending the service to international flights, this is not expected to happen until after the 80-strong domestic Boeing 737 and A330 fleet is fully upgraded by late 2018.
David Flynn travelled to Hong Kong as a guest of Virgin Australia