Qantas: free WiFi coming to international flights

This year’s launch of the first ViaSat-3 satellite paves the way for ‘broadband above the clouds’ on overseas flights.

By David Flynn, February 24 2023
Qantas: free WiFi coming to international flights
Executive Traveller exclusive

Qantas plans to offer fast free WiFi on most international flights, with the airline confirming high-speed satellite technology will be fitted to not only its Project Sunrise Airbus A350s but also the Airbus A380 superjumbo along with A330 and Boeing 787 workhorses.

The airline 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 Chief Financial Officer Vanessa Hudson tells Executive Traveller.

Hudson says 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.”

The trio of ViaSat-3 satellites will blanket the Earth.
The trio of ViaSat-3 satellites will blanket the Earth.

However, Qantas Group 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.

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.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 681

"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 yet, there are some that believe they've been delivering a sub-standard product (much larger than lack of wifi) for at least the past 12 months. Particularly in the in-cabin food/beverage arena and the telephone customer service area. Boom-tish.

It is clear, in retrospect, that QF's international competition don't see the KU-band performance issue as large or significant as NOT being able to offer a wifi product at all. And accordingly, they charge for it.  

Yes, QF would have had to pull the old KU equipment out. But so do ALL their competition. That's what offering an equivalent product is all about. 

Yes, KU may be sub-standard, but in todays environment of connected business travellers, having some wifi coverage is better than having none. QF apparently hasn't realised that yet.

22 May 2011

Total posts 87

Interesting how pretty much every other respectable airline these days has some form of wifi across the oceans (they limit bandwidth by charging people for it), but for Qantas they don’t want to expose us to a sub-standard product.  How noble of them. 

Even if it is sub-par, some people might like the ability to be in touch (Eg messenger or WhatsApp) whilst in the air and are happy to pay a bit for it - at least on other airlines there is the option.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 389

The decision Qantas has made to hold out for the premium grade wifi across its fleet is the right one. It makes no commercial sense to spend any money installing a C-grade product to only have to capitalise more on ripping it out to install the premium version, irrespective if customers were willing to pay. I bet Qantas aircraft have not flown out with empty seats because they didn’t offer wifi over the Pacific Ocean.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1381

Qantas has seemingly been waiting for the right WiFi solution that will work with all its planes on all its routes.

Other airlines are mostly flying over land and have far more options (Satellites tend to be focused on land)

In particular not much satellite coverage over the Pacific which is needed for all Aus - US routes.


Looks like the first satellite is schedule to blast off with SpaceX Falcon Heavy from Florida on Sat 8 Apr in the evening (Sunday morning in Aus).

The other two sats are with ULA and Ariane in late 2023 and 2024.


09 May 2020

Total posts 539

Welcome to the 22nd century, Qantas, where your lame excuse of not providing a substandard product, had resulted in not providing any product on international flights while quite a few national airlines (including those from “low and middle income countries “) had provided internet service on international routes. The worries about the streaming or WhatsApp phone calls bandwidth can easily be throttled (literally) and anyone wanting more than internet surfing and internet scrolling could have been made to pay big money to justify their use (and other pax’s inconvenience at slower connections).

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Apr 2018

Total posts 5

So why not install the Ka band equipment now in the A380 refurb's and have it ready when the birds are launched?

as for the other aircraft in service, I'm sure they could be done as part of scheduled maintenance. No need to wait until after the satellites are launched before fitting the equipment. The more planes that are ready & waiting to receive the signal the better.

20 Dec 2017

Total posts 16

I used the free wifi several times between AUS and USA as part of the earlier Qantas trial on the A380s. It was seriously shocking. Often dropping out entirely for long periods. They made the right call to wait.

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