AirNZ touts 'innovative' inflight WiFi pricing in launch lead-up

By David Flynn, May 18 2017

Air New Zealand is moving steadily towards the launch of inflight internet on domestic and international flights, with the airline now running the numbers on how it will price its sky-high WiFi connectivity,

“We’ve got several scenarios that I think will be quite innovative and quite clever,” Air New Zealand CEO Christopher Luxon told Australian Business Traveller on the sidelines of an international Star Alliance media gathering in Frankfurt.

“It’s important that when we do launch, we launch with a comprehensive solution and we also want to make sure in a classic Air New Zealand way that we do it a little bit differently while still meeting the needs of our customers.”

The Star Alliance member "will begin rolling out inflight Wi-Fi on its jet services towards the end of 2017" a spokeswoman for the airline confirmed to Australian Business Traveller, although refusing to confirm which aircraft or routes would be first to see the satellite service.

Air New Zealand had previously said its long-range Boeing 777-300ER and short-range Airbus A3210neo would be first on the list to be kitted out with the satellite tech, however the A321neo deliveries have now been pushed back to sometime in 2018.

Luxon said that a free trial period – similar to what partner Virgin Australia is doing for the first three months of its limited WiFi rollout – is under consideration.

In the longer term, pricing “might be be different for domestic, trans-Tasman and long- haul routes” he added. “It might not be a one-size-fits-all solution.”

David Flynn travelled to Frankfurt as a guest of Star Alliance.

PREVIOUS | Air New Zealand will roll out inflight Internet across its domestic, trans-Tasman and international network from 2017.

AirNZ CEO Chris Luxon, announcing the move at a press conference held in Sydney this morning, promised the service would be "world class WiFi".

The satellite-based Internet service – powered by Inmarsat's new global GX satellite constellation – is due to launch in the second half of 2017, with initial trials on a Boeing 777-300ER and a factory-fresh Airbus A321neo.

International first, domestic to follow

The airline’s international fleet will be the first fitted with WiFi, with domestic New Zealand following in 2018.

“Our customers want WiFi on those longer flights to LA, San Francisco, Houston and Vancouver, they’re up to 14 hours, so our focus will be to get the long-haul fleet done as quickly as we can," Air New Zealand's Chief Revenue Officer Cam Wallace told Australian Business Traveller.

Wallace added that unlike the long international flights, “the biggest challenge for us is to establish what (pricing) model we deploy in our domestic market, where you spend an average of 45 minutes in the air, but we want it to be available gate-to-gate.”

While most of the AirNZ fleet will be retrofitted with the satellite technology over the course of 18 months, new Airbus A321neo jets – due for delivery from 2017 – will be kitted out at the factory.

Carrie Hurihanganui, Air New Zealand's General Manager for Customer Experience (below), told Australian Business Traveller that the airline has not yet decided on the pricing model, although Hurihanganui would not rule out either free or paid services.

"It will be somewhat driven by what customers are telling us they want to use (the service) for, because different people want different things."

Asked to qualify what 'world class' means in the contest of inflight Internet, Hurihanganui cited not just speed but consistency of service and a reliable product.

"We want to get a system that delivers to customers, because if you're going to offer something you also have to be able to deliver on that."

Cam Wallace revealed the airline is looking at “three to four core options” on pricing.

In keeping with the airline’s unbundling approach and ‘seats to suit’ strategy “you could have it as part of the fare type” Wallace told Australian Business Traveller.

“You also have business class passengers who are paying a significant amount of money, and so could be part of the fare.”

“Or we could have a generic fee based on time or bandwidth, or a ‘membership’ model as part of Airpoints for example.”

As for the potential to make the Internet free for all passengers, “we want to unpack what ‘free’ really means.”

Arch-competitor Qantas has indicated its own WiFi service – due to start later this year – will be free of charge to all passengers.

Read more: Qantas boosts inflight Internet, plans live streaming of cricket

The Kiwi carrier's partner Virgin Australia also intends to flick the switch on sky-high WiFi next year for domestic and international flights, although the fleet-wide upgrade is expected to take "a couple of years", says Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti.

Read more: Virgin Australia to launch inflight Internet

Connect with other AusBT readers and frequent flyers in our Air New Zealand discussion group

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

02 Jan 2013

Total posts 142

If it is free, I pray to god they limit how much Internet you could use! Could only imagine all the bandwidth taken by greedy passengers. 

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

04 Sep 2012

Total posts 136

While I like the idea of 'free' internet, this will no doubt slow the service down to an unusable level.
In saying that though it should be free for at least Business and Airpoints Elite

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Feb 2015

Total posts 130

Agree with Koru17, Finnair offer free Wifi to Business and pay wifi for the rest of the cabin. But to be honest I think Wifi would be used more on short/mid haul flights when most people are awake. Whereas most long haul flights (e.g. to NA) are overnights and people would want to either sleep or watch movies, unless their Wifi would be fast enough to stream YouTube.

13 May 2016

Total posts 32

I agree with this comment. I was recently on a Delta LAX to SYD flight and only used the wifi for a couple of hours. The rest of the time I was asleep.

I did have to pay for the wifi, it was only about $25AUD but the speed was not quite fast enough to stream, but was fast enough for browsing, emails, facebook etc.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Jan 2013

Total posts 246

As someone who works in the tourism trade, I would second what come commenters have mentioned and make it free for business class and up and frequent flyers and offer it at reasonable prices for economy.

I'd also recommend AirNZ invest in some combat training for staff for when some guests realize that 'world class internet' does not necessarily mean 'I can download and stream 3 TB of high def movies on my four hour flight'. 

Still, credit's where credit is due. If they pull it off, in-flight wifi could be a great competative advantage. 

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

24 Jan 2013

Total posts 30

how is it a great comp advantage, it is the norm today as i see it!

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

10 Aug 2015

Total posts 79

Anyone know if Air NZ is the first to use this Inmarsat technology or is there another airline using it currently?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Oct 2013

Total posts 714

There are a few airlines that have/planned to get GX internet

Singapore Airlines : 777-300ER (one currently has it for trials, entire fleet to get it), A380 (planned)

Vietnam Airlines : A350 (planned)

Lufthansa : A320 (a couple currently have it, with entire fleet by 2018), A319 (planned) and A321 (planned)

Lufthansa's pricing...

It's currently free for a trial but when they do make it pay (in about a months time) the prices will be

First 10 minutes: Free

Whats App, iMessage, Line, Snapchat: €3 per flight

Basic Web Browsing: €7 per flight

High Speed (streaming YouTube/Netflix etc) : €12 per flight

Etihad Guest

23 Dec 2012

Total posts 4

I'm assuming some or all of the required kit is already installed on their 787-9 (ZK-NZK). On my recent Auckland > Sydney flight my mobile device kept picking up the similarly named 'ANZ_ZK_NZK' wifi hotspot. It was password protected, but there none-the-less.

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