Here's how Aussies are using inflight Internet on Qantas, Virgin

By David Flynn, September 22 2017
Here's how Aussies are using inflight Internet on Qantas, Virgin

With Qantas and Virgin Australia both beginning a broader rollout of inflight Internet on domestic routes, the airlines have also revealed exactly how passengers are taking to sky-high WiFi – and what they're doing once they get online.

Qantas reports that during its initial three-month trial, one in three passengers were logging on at some stage during the flight.

That number is expected to rise as more of the Qantas Boeing 737 fleet is kitted out with the fast and free satellite WiFi service, and travellers become more accustomed to seeing that WiFi logo on the side of the red-tailed jets.

AusBT reviews Qantas WiFi on the Boeing 737

Qantas claims the "industry standard" for passengers connecting to inflight Internet is less than 10%, "but we are expecting somewhere between 30-50% because we’re offering the service on our domestic Boeing 737s and Airbus A330s for free."

(While no A330s have inflight Internet at this stage, a Qantas spokesman has previously advised Australian Business Traveller that the twin-aisle jets should see some WiFi action towards the end of the year – which will be a boon for those five hour transcontinental flights.)

While Virgin Australia hasn't shared the sign-on ratio for its own WiFi-enabled Boeing 737 flights, the airline reports that of those who do connect, 49% check their email, 43% log on to social media channels and 31% catch up with the news.

AusBT reviews Virgin Australia WiFi on the Boeing 737

That's not far off the habits of smartphone users on terra firma, and Qantas reports that its own passengers are likewise "spending the most time using email and browsing the Web, in particular news sites."

"This is followed by social media – Facebook is the most popular social media application – streaming video and music services (Stan, Netflix, Spotify), along with messaging services (like WhatsApp) and on-line shopping."

Streaming in the sky

Virgin Australia in particular cites that 19% of its connected travellers tuned into Netflix, and the speeds would seem sufficient to catch up on your favourite TV show with 77% of passengers reporting "a high level of satisfaction" with the inflight WiFi trials.

Our own tests of both the Qantas and Virgin inflight WiFi systems saw typical download speeds ranging from 10-20Mbps: certainly fast enough stream HD video live to your seat at 35,000 feet, being as fast or even faster than a typical household ADSL2+ connection.

So what's next?

Qantas' 80-strong domestic Boeing 737 and A330 fleet is due to be upgraded by late 2018, with the airline also considering extending the service to international flights – although its factory-fresh Boeing 787s won't be delivered with WiFi on board.

Virgin Australia plans to outfit most of its 77-strong Boeing 737 fleet with the satellite technology by the end of 2018, with inflight Internet also available - at a price that's yet to be revealed - on Virgin's Boeing 777 flights to the USA and Airbus A330 services to Hong Kong and China.


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.

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

17 Feb 2016

Total posts 46

Qantas is 'considering extending the service to international flights...' What part of Long Haul doesn't Qantas get ??

So I can access wifi on a 90 min flight on the Eastern seaboard but when it comes to 8+ hour legs to Asia and Nt America no Wifi..why ??

13 Sep 2016

Total posts 178

Qantas doesn't have agreement with international satellite operators yet, only the NBN which only covers Australia, that's why.

16 Oct 2015

Total posts 5

A few years ago I was Platinum and flying J SYD/LAX when Qantas was doing a trial of inflight internet. After dinner, I think that there were only 2 of us using it. For most of the flight everybody else in the cabin was asleep and I was the only one trialling (The Cabin Crew kept on checking).
Qantas concluded that on the long hauls, sleep was a higher priority to most than work.

As a comment to Nick Sydney 2 below, during this flight I finished a report and sent it. Hours later after landing, I found a cranky gram from the client who wanted to know why I did not answer his question about the report. He was quite amused to discover that it had been sent from 30,000 ft. I agree with you Nick.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Jul 2013

Total posts 207

Probably because the vast majority of pax on services between AUS and USA will prioritise sleep over work on those long overnight sectors. As @PeterBla points out below the market research QF have done was quite extensive to ensure the investment makes sense. What's the point of putting extra equipment (ergo extra weight, increasing fuel burn, etc.) onto an aircraft if it's going to have limited value/return?


31 Aug 2017

Total posts 4

Hopeless. Thank goodness for Emirates.

13 Sep 2016

Total posts 178

I've been on both the Qantas and Virgin WiFi planes and the service is fantastic. Solid speeds, very little variance during the connection so streaming is smooth. Will be far more useful when it gets onto east-west flights because then I can really get some work done, short legs like SYD-MEL it's still handy though.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Jul 2015

Total posts 220

I actually quite enjoy the lack of connectivity to be honest. Being a regular on Syd - DFW it gives plenty of time to catch up on sleep or activities like watching a film or reading and not being glued to phone screen.

16 May 2017

Total posts 3

So long as Skype and friends are blocked so that incurable chatterboxes don't make the flight a misery for everyone else.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1379

Any update on when Qantas will actually turn on the WIFI?? They had previously said September.

Think it's nine aircraft that now have the sat dish installed

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