Fast, free WiFi on Qantas flights to Asia

The international fleet is getting an early upgrade for worldwide Internet coverage.

By Staff Writers, April 22 2024
Fast, free WiFi on Qantas flights to Asia

Qantas intends to offer fast free WiFi on flights to Asia by the end of this year, with satellite Internet tech now being added to its international Airbus A330 jets.

Flights to New Zealand and other Pacific destinations are up next, followed by Europe and the USA, before non-stop Project Sunrise A350 flights from Sydney and Melbourne to London and New York take wing in the back half of 2026.

Qantas will upgrade its Airbus A330, Boeing 787 and A380 superjumbo fleets to allow high bandwidth WiFi using the combined Inmarsat and Viasat networks, following a US$7.3bn merger between the two companies.

Viasat exec Don Buchman says Qantas’ international WiFi will match the domestic service for “the digital experiences it can provide, from live TV and sports to social media and streaming.”

Qantas currently sees Web browsing making up around 38% of use on domestic flights, with “at least a quarter” of passengers streaming video and 15-20% for audio streaming.

Some international flights already have WiFi

That said, passengers on most Qantas flights to and from Singapore, Bali, Jakarta and Manila already enjoy fast free WiFi, but only for that part of their journey when the aircraft is over Australia.

That’s because they are on domestic Qantas jets – specifically Airbus A330-200s and Boeing 737s – which rely on the domestic NBN Sky Muster satellite network, which in turn has a footprint focussed on Australia.

The footprint of the Sky Munster satellite which powers Qantas WiFi.
The footprint of the Sky Munster satellite which powers Qantas WiFi.

This means while your international flight is above Australia you can expect WiFi to the same standard as most domestic Qantas flights; but once your plane leaves the Australian coastline behind, you can also wave goodbye to WiFi.

As frequent flyers can attest, “we’re still in Australia” is often a large portion of the journey to Asia.

For example, on the daily flight QF81 from Sydney to Singapore almost half of the eight-hour trip is spent over Australia.

Many Qantas flights between the east coast capitals and Singapore will now have WiFi access while they're over Australia.
Many Qantas flights between the east coast capitals and Singapore will now have WiFi access while they're over Australia.

And if you’re flying from Sydney or Melbourne to Bali, two-thirds of the trip falls within Qantas’ Australian WiFi coverage zone.

There’s another caveat before you can get connected above the clouds: your flight must be on a WiFi-enabled Qantas Boeing 737 or Airbus A330-200 domestic jet. This rules out the Airbus A380 and longer-range A330-300s, as well as the Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

Here are the initial overseas routes for Qantas WiFi on international flights:

  • Sydney-Singapore
  • Sydney-Denpasar (Bali)
  • Sydney-Jakarta 
  • Sydney-Manila
  • Melbourne-Singapore 
  • Melbourne-Denpasar (Bali)
  • Brisbane-Singapore 
  • Brisbane-Port Moresby
  • Perth-Singapore

(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.)

You can expect the cabin crew to make an announcement is WiFi is available on your flight, and if so, you can even begin using it while the aircraft is on the ground all the way until it moves beyond satellite coverage.

So what’s the WiFi experience like on this handful of popular Qantas international flights?

It’s exactly the same as you’re already enjoying on domestic Qantas Boeing 737 and A330-200 flights, because it uses exactly the same system.

Connect to the Qantas Free Wi-Fi hotspot on your laptop, tablet or phone and click the big red Connect button.

Getting online with Qantas' 'international' WiFi service.
Getting online with Qantas' 'international' WiFi service.

After watching a short video advertisement, you’re online.

We happily clocked download speeds around 10-15Mbps: that’s more than enough for streaming video or music, let along basic email and Web browsing, and much faster than what’s currently available on the global satellite-based network of most airlines

(Things are different when you’re using a ground-based network, as is commonly the case in North America for example.)

Upload speeds for Qantas WiFi tend to be clipped around the 1Mbps mark, so file uploads and heavy cloud computing access will need some patience.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 692

Finally, about time !

Yes, we all know Qantas wants passengers to have a superior WiFi experience. Yes, we know the technical issues surrounding KA-2 band lack of satellites in the Southern Hemisphere etc. But seriously, lack of WiFi on international flights has become a complete competitive disadvantage for the airline. 

This issue has simmered for the past 12 years. Enough time for QF to have absorbed the cost of installation of a lesser quality hardware. QF could have jump-started the WiFI / Internet trend on international, beaten its competitors and secured a loyal following. Yes, it would have required QF to then refit newer hardware - but this is no different to what their passengers do, when being forced by technology changes to upgrade hardware (laptops, desk PC's, tablets, watches etc - when innovation introduces a new operating system or enhanced CPU processors etc.

Clearly, the success of the domestic WiFi / SkyMuster program should have demonstrated to QF that WiFi technology is a much loved and (on domestic) entrenched customer attraction. The logic of this customer acceptance is NOT a great leap of faith on long-haul international - especially when passengers are routinely locked into flights of more than 10 hour plus.

What absolutely astounds me, is that during the grounding of the A380 fleet - common sense, operational and economic intelligence would dictate that the brightest move would to have fitted the appropriate hardware to the A380 fleet WHILE these frames were undergoing upgrades.

However, perhaps this may have been done .. I am a little curious to the specific wording of the article which states "will be progressively switched on from the end of calendar year 2024". Knowing QF's penchant for 'precise' terminology (re. specifying calendar year, as opposed to 'financial' year), it leads me to wonder whether QF has actually woken up and and done some decent fleet planning in terms of pre-installation, rather than pulling frames from the fleet during the latter half of 2024 and further disrupting schedules ?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Feb 2016

Total posts 1

Why would you spend money upgrading a fleet of aircraft when you have no income and still have massive expenses to pay, especially when you do not know if or when the aircraft will fly again. 

23 Oct 2014

Total posts 234

Typical glacial pace, only in reluctance to match competitors. 

Etihad - Etihad Guest

13 Jun 2019

Total posts 13

The reason why it has taken so long to catch up to its rivals is because Qantas has not wanted to put capital investment into all the 20+ year old airframes that have soldiered on, in the absence of new aircraft orders so as to improve profitability which therefore trigger senior management bonuses. It is clear that Qantas has burned through so much customer goodwill, there is literally nothing that Qantas announces without customers being suspicious, or believing there is an underlying agenda from Qantas.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Feb 2015

Total posts 1

And every other airline has new planes, better seats and wifi if you want it, yet QF wants to install on an ageing fleet, upgrade your planes for your loyal customers who are moving to other airlines daily.

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