Do you REALLY want the Internet on Australian flights?

By David Flynn, September 9 2016
Do you REALLY want the Internet on Australian flights?

TALKING POINT | Qantas will begin trials of inflight Internet on domestic Australian flights towards the end of this year, with Virgin Australia to follow in 2017.

It's a big step forward for both airlines, and will see them join the growing list of international airlines offering sky-high WiFi on flights into and out of Australia – among those American Airlines, ANA, Emirates, Etihad, JAL, Qatar, Singapore Airlines, Scoot,  and soon Cathay Pacific.

Read more: Which airlines offer inflight Internet access from Australia?

Qantas and Virgin Australia are already talking up the use of streaming services, with the Red Roo hopeful of live-streaming 20/20 Cricket.

Virgin Australia has yet to reveal its pricing structure, although Qantas has notably promised free Internet for everybody on the plane.

So here's the thing: when I speak with travellers and frequent flyers about inflight Internet, there's a clean divide right down the middle on if it's a Good Thing or a Bad Thing.

The reasons are easy to fathom.

Good Thing is about being in touch and on top of things while you fly, especially on our long transcontinental trek between the east coast capitals and Perth. Being able to turn that flying time into useful working time.

Bad Thing is about flying time not being working time – indeed, being a rare slice of downtime, disconnected from email and phone calls and social media, and relaxing with a good book or a trashy magazine.

"Ah, but you don't have to be connected" suggests Good Thing. "You have a choice."

"Not if it's a work trip, my company is paying and my boss expects me to be online!" responds Bad Thing.

That's pretty much how most of the conversations seem to go... and when Qantas rolls out its first WiFi-equipped Boeing 737 in the next few months, the conversation is going to move from a largely academic what-if to reality.

And with Qantas and Virgin wiring up their domestic Boeing 737-800 and Airbus A330 jets fleets from next year, at some point we'll find stepping onto a domestic flight and staying connected will become the norm.

Where do you stand with inflight internet on flights within Australia? Will it be a Good Thing or a Bad Thing?

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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.

26 May 2011

Total posts 19

I would prefer inflight entertainment personally - the only interest I would have in it is Flightaware to track my flight, since you cant see that on the QF domestic fleet after the ripped out the In seat IFE and assumed people have thier own device. That isnt a problem on international. I actually dont mind be disconnected for a few hours - but if there is connection, bosses will use that to thier advantage!

undertheradar Banned
undertheradar Banned

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 654

IFE hasn't been 'ripped out' of any 737. The 737s that only had communal screens, STILL have those screens showing various programmes throughout the day (incuding the flightmap when possible)...The BYODevice for streaming has been ADDED to these aircraft. The remaining 737s with fixed seat AVOD, STILL have fixed seat AVOD. It's approx a 50/50% split of aircraft with either option.

Check QANTAS.COM seatmaps section and it explains what I mean.

undertheradar Banned
undertheradar Banned

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 654

...and inflight wifi will be added to all those 737s from 2017, which will add another option for pax..

28 May 2016

Total posts 128

I think it's a good thing but only if the speed is decent enought to use. My only concern with QF offering it to everyone for free is that it will render it useless by making it so slow.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Oct 2013

Total posts 704

My concern is them leeching off the NBN satellite. It was designed for rural connections, not Qantas and Virgin to put wifi on every flight.

With only 160 gbps capacity and 400,000 homes to services plus a whole lot of domestic flights, I can quickly see this not working.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1378

I would hope the service is limited to a nominal amount necessary to check emals, update Facebook etc. with $$s required if you want to try and stream things for example.

Would expect live sport would actually be buffered in the onboard IFE/QStreaming system so as to ensure better quality and mean the content is only downloaded once.

Etihad at only 10Mb is too little - would think something like 50Mb on <2hr flights and 100Mb on longer flights would be a reasonable limit for most.

As for the concern about clogging up SkyMuster - well there would only be at most 100 Qantas/Virgin planes in the sky at any one time and unless they are using multiple receivers they will be limited to the same speed as every other SkyMuster user. In addition they can probably use the less congested beams as they fly across the country

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Dec 2015

Total posts 9

Given current data habits (using Netflix, Hulu, YouTube etc) it will be very interesting to see what QF offer and how long they retain their free Wi-Fi policy. I really think they will have to offer a sufficient level of service to enable streaming, but I don't think they will like their bills much!

Most if not all IFC vendors can push live TV via the extant IFE platform on-board. Either that of they have their own full IFEC solution that multicasts, so yes each channel is only streamed once to each aircraft. It would be prohibitively expensive to get each guest to stream it independently.

The fears of hogging all the bandwidth really depend on which technology QF & VA choose. It is looking likely that both are going to be installing dual band Ku/Ka antennas - these can switch between Ka (the NBN-Skymuster frequency range) and Ku (NOT NBN). So the question then becomes one of how their contracts with satellite providers are worded, and if they even intend to use Ka over Australia at all. Given the very real possibility that Skymuster capacity will quickly become used up by rural NBN users (as it is intended and prioritized for), it seems most likely that Ku will be used over Australia - at least until Skymuster 2 is launched and positioned.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards Gold

04 Jul 2014

Total posts 130

I can't wait for the wifi to launch. Every circumstance is different in companies, I'm not expected to work on company paid long haul flights with wifi, so I expect this will be much the same.  

Bring on the option! 


12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1501

MEL-SYD? Do not really care. MEL-PER? May be and could pay up to $5.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Oct 2013

Total posts 704

to answer the question in the title, Yep.

Time is money and there's nothing more annoying than stepping on a flight for a few hours and expecting an important email only to find out it was send 5 minutes after you take off.

If you've traveled in the US or even with some airlines like Norwegian in Europe (free wifi) then you'll know how good it is to know that your aircraft will have internet.


21 Jul 2011

Total posts 91

I'm on the 'flying is downtime' side.  That said, it's going to happen. 


11 Jul 2014

Total posts 940

i think it is a good and bad thing, stream Hulu , make voip calls, down side is listening to people make voip calls.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

26 Jun 2011

Total posts 77

I would assume that VoIP calls, such as Skype and Viber etc will be blocked, as they are on most other airline's inflight internet.

23 Feb 2016

Total posts 33

Latency and data use would be way too high for that anyway.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

10 Nov 2011

Total posts 133

In my opinion, definitely bad. It's great to be disconnected form the world for a little while. I can't stand the thought of being in a cabin with someone making VOIP calls throughout a flight!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1247

I can live without internet access on domestic flights. I'd much prefer a robust IFE system any day.

Does your boss expect you to be online when you're on the toilet?

To me it seems pretty lame, when the reason given for not having the Internet on planes is so that one does not get disturbed.

It suggests a poor and dysfunctional relationship with your boss/organisation. We take our mobiles home and we draw a line that we do not respond to emails when we're in bed at 2am. Same thing applies here. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 783

Will be interesting to watch this in real life. E.g. SYD-MEL.... you have three people in Y on a 737, all three pull out their 15" laptops, then the drinks and meals come around. Who is going to move/shift their laptop first? Funny stuff. Nevertheless I can see inflight wifi as being a nice option, and to be honest I still think it shouldn't be free. Would rather pay for a decent link then share a crap service with everyone. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 May 2016

Total posts 14

I'm all for inflight internet PROVIDED all forms of voice calls are blocked.  The prospect of having to listen to someone shout into their phone/laptop from gate to gate on any length of flight sends my anxiety levels soaring.

23 Feb 2015

Total posts 263

100% agreed

21 Oct 2015

Total posts 26

The VOIP comments are misplaced. US airlines have had internet for years and VOIP is always blocked (as well as streaming services.) It's just fearmongering that VOIP calls will interrupt your flight. 

Stop fearing the future. Internet everywhere is inevitable and it's nothing to fear. It puts Australia at a competitve disadvantage to not have it. Welcome to 2008, Australia!


16 Oct 2015

Total posts 12

That's not entirely true. Jetblue offers free streaming on its flight for amazon prime members or $9 if you're not.

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

17 Feb 2016

Total posts 46

I once got Skype working on a UA flight out of LA. The novelty soon wore off when i realised the other side couldn't hear me because of all of the white noise...

18 Sep 2015

Total posts 128

So long as there's no VOIP, Skype etc I don't really care either way.

11 Feb 2016

Total posts 15

Yes! They should ban streaming video in the interest of keeping it usable for all, but general browsing on long flights would really be a boon to productivity. Australian airlines are really far behind in this regard.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Aug 2014

Total posts 504

If they get the speed and the price right, then I'll surely get on the bandgwagon! 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

08 Jun 2014

Total posts 262

SYD-PER or the other way - Internet would be fantastic, be Business or Leisure it's great to have that option. The option.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

13 Jun 2013

Total posts 27

Nope.  Dread the thought.  On an EK flight back from Dubai recently the guy in the row in front of me was on Messenger or WhatAp (or whatever) chatting to someone.  I had no seat in front of me and so could see, but not read, his messages and was well aware when he laughed or reacted to their replies.  Distracting, annoying, intrusive; I wanted to jamb the phone down his throat after about an hour.  Thank god for sleeping tablets.

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