Qatar Airways will add live TV channels and high-speed 'Super WiFi' to a large portion of its international fleet in 2020, upgrading from an older and slower technology to what can best be described as 'broadband in the sky'.
The Gulf airline's Airbus A380 superjumbos and Boeing 787 Dreamliners, numbering 70 in all, are switching to a fast 2Ku satellite service from Gogo, which is also the Internet provider for Virgin Australia among other airlines.
Qatar's Super WiFi is already one of the fastest international connections above the clouds, with travellers able to enjoy unlimited WiFi across the length of their flight for US$10-US$20 with download speeds around 5Mbps.
While Super WiFi is funnelled through Inmarsat's GX Aviation Ka-band satellite network, Gogo's 2Ku system will boost connection speeds and add live TV channels – a bundle which typically includes an international roster of news and sports – into the bargain.
"Having access to the Internet, and being connected and available is critical for passengers, and the demand for bandwidth will only increase," said Qatar Airways Group CEO His Excellency Akbar Al Baker.
The refit will include Qatar's 10-strong Airbus A380 fleet, despite plans to begin retiring the double-decker jets from 2024.
Al Baker tipped the fate of the A380 fleet at this year's Paris Air Show in June, admitting "we feel that the aircraft does not have very long future in Qatar Airways' fleet. We would think about retiring those aeroplanes on their 10th anniversary, unless something untoward happens and we need them."
He confirmed this would see the Oneworld member's first A380 put out to pasture in 2024 "because it would be 10 years old."
This relatively short use-by date also means the A380s won't be upgraded to the airline's highly-regarded Qsuite business class suites, which would also need to be re-designed to fit onto the upper deck.
Qatar Airways is now readying a next-generation Qsuite to take wing on its Boeing 787-9 fleet from 2020, along with a new single-aisle business class for its Airbus A321neo jets.