Almost exactly three years to the day that Qantas launched WiFi on April 7 2017, the airline has hit the 'off' switch, with WiFi becoming another unexpected casualty of the coronavirus – alongside more conventional forms of inflight entertainment such as movies, TV shows and music.
The fast and free Qantas WiFi service was shut down yesterday in a move to reduce costs and conserve all-important cash as the airline digs in against the COVID-19 crisis.
Almost all of Qantas' 85-strong fleet of domestic Airbus A330 and Boeing 737 jets were running WiFi as of early March, delivering an average 10-15Mbps to passengers' laptops, tablets and smartphones: speeds not only sufficient for streaming high-definition video on services such as Netflix, but quicker than many home Internet connections.
However, this connectivity comes at a standing per-aircraft cost, which includes a guaranteed minimum bandwidth for each flight.
The same applies to inflight video, for which Qantas boasted an extensive library of more than 1,000 hours of movies and TV shows, along with music programs and podcasts.
These all attracted monthly license fees determined by the size of the entire Qantas fleet, regardless of how many aircraft were actually in the air.
With drastically fewer aircraft flying – most Qantas domestic routes have been halved, while the normally bustling Sydney-Melbourne corridor has dropped from 250 return services per week to under 90 – Qantas has opted to put its WiFi and inflight entertainment on hold.
As previously reported, Qantas has also suspended inflight meals and drinks on all domestic flights, scaling back its inflight catering to a complimentary bottle of water and a snack.
Is there a bright side to all of this? When your flying resumes, at least your Qantas Silver, Gold or Platinum or Platinum One status will stretch out for another year, while Qantas Club memberships and the use-by date of complimentary Qantas lounge passes have been extended by six months.