Qantas switches on international WiFi
Selected routes into Asia now offer fast free WiFi for part (but not all) of the journey.
Executive Traveller exclusive
Passengers on most Qantas flights to and from Singapore, Bali, Jakarta and Manila can now enjoy fast free WiFi, with Qantas flicking the switch on international inflight Internet.
These destinations are among the first routes in an extension of Qantas’ domestic WiFi program, which will provide coverage during those parts of the flight which are over Australia and within the footprint of the Sky Muster satellite which powers the Qantas WiFi service.
And as frequent flyers can attest, that’s often a large portion of the journey. For example, on the daily flight QF81 from Sydney to Singapore almost half of the eight-hour trip is spent within Australia.
And if you’re flying from Sydney or Melbourne to Bali, two-thirds of the trip falls within the Australian WiFi coverage zone.
This first foray into WiFi on international Qantas flights will be limited to the following routes when flown by a WiFi-enabled Qantas Boeing 737 or Airbus A330-200 jet (so this rules out the Airbus A380 and A330-300s, as well as the Boeing 787):
- Sydney-Denpasar (Bali)
- Melbourne-Denpasar (Bali)
- Brisbane-Port Moresby
Qantas has confirmed to Executive Traveller that WiFi will be available on both inbound and outbound legs while the aircraft is over Australia and within the Sky Muster’s coverage zone, as shown below.
Routes where the aircraft don’t spend as much time within the Sky Muster satellite’s coverage zone – such as to New Zealand – have understandably been left off the list.
Qantas sees this as a modest first step towards truly worldwide coverage with the 2025 launch of non-stop flights to London and New York on the Project Sunrise Airbus A350 jets, which will be fitted with high-speed satellite technology to deliver free broadband to all passengers.
However, the Airbus A380 superjumbo along with Airbus A330-300 and Boeing 787 workhorses are also in line for the same upgrade.
Global ‘broadband in the sky’
Qantas will rely on the new ViaSat-3 network for serving up broadband-grade speeds to all passengers from first class to economy, with three satellites each one covering one-third of the planet.
The first will launch in mid-2023 to blanket the Americas, although Qantas will wait until the final Australia-Pacific bird is launched by mid-2024 to complete the ViaSat-3 constellation and offer a global footprint.
But with the first Airbus A350s not due until the back end of 2025, the airline says it might be in a position to roll out WiFi early to other parts of its long-range fleet.
“The plan is that the A350s will have WiFi, but the plan is that we will also retrofit our A380s, A330s and 787s” Qantas CEO-in-waiting Vanessa Hudson told Executive Traveller in February this year in her role as Chief Financial Officer.
Hudson said it was “very probable” the ViaSat-3 WiFi could make its debut on flights ahead of the A350, with the airline soon to begin drawing up its “retrofit program.”
However, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce added these upgrades would of course mean that aircraft would be taken out of service, at a time when the airline was aiming to boost capacity to the fullest “so just need to work through that.”
“But we’re hopeful we will have that high-speed WiFi right across the international network.”
Joyce reiterated the airline had held back on international WiFi because current satellites didn’t offer the speed or coverage needed to meet passenger expectations, especially in comparison to its domestic offering.
After all, an overseas flight of anywhere up to 20 hours can be an ideal slab of time to indulge in some broadband-powered ‘binge viewing’ on your favourite streaming service.
Staying in touch on Project Sunrise flights
Joyce has previously described ViaSat’s fast Ka-band satellite technology to Executive Traveller as being “perfect for Project Sunrise.”
Qantas opted not to fit its international Airbus A330, A380 and Boeing 787 fleet with significantly slower Ku-band kit because "we don’t want a sub-standard product” – and once the ViaSat-3 birds were in the air “we’d have to rip it out and put on new antennas (and) new equipment.”
“The (Ku-band) product is terrible, we think, and we’ve tried it” Joyce reflected, adding that “you certainly can’t have everybody streaming” content at the same time due to the relatively narrow satellite bandwidth which has to be shared across all passengers.
ViaSat claims the ViaSat-3 system will deliver “a minimum 10-15 megabits per second” to every passenger’s smartphone, tablet or laptop – even if they’re got multiple devices.
That’s a steady clip above the WiFi speeds of most international airline, which typically sit in the low single digits.
The company already has an Australian connection in place, with a Telstra fibre-optic network providing a high-speed and high-capacity gateway for the satellite signals.
Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Qantas switches on international WiFi
24 Aug 2011
Total posts 1193
As someone who regularly flies between MEL and SIN or CGK, it is truly bonkers that it wasn't already happening. I spoke to the CSM on my last flight to CGK and he said he didn't understand either but there were a few occasions where it had been left active and was available so try anyway.
Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer
29 Mar 2015
Total posts 94
Obviously I am old. I am astounded that people cannot be detached from their wifi for any period without throwing what my grandmother would have called a "right tanti" (trantrum). Domestically, I sort of get it, but even then I find it an imposition having to sit with noise cancelling ear phones so I do not need to hear the rest of my accidental travelling companion's whiny phone call to his mistress (or male lover) over the problems in his marriage! I think in this day and age several hours of contemplative self reflection would do us all good!
Thai Airways International - Royal Orchid Plus
15 Jan 2013
Total posts 452
This is well beyond overdue.I haven't done Qantas International anywhere in years but it is something they should have brought in a long time ago.Being able to listen to your own music videos or whatever as opposed to being stuck with what the airline has on offer.i was stunned about no inflight audio last time domestically.I suffered two hours or close to that of listening to some Magdalena Rose factual.
29 Jan 2016
Total posts 12
Or just do what other people do and download it first. That way you won't be stuck constantly buffering on their crap internet speeds trying to watch something in 2k or 4k video quality.
13 Aug 2016
Total posts 68
Yet NZ has had WIFI on the Tasman since around 2018 for free now, with the majority of there International fleet offering free WIFI.