Virgin Australia looks to reboot inflight WiFi

How will WiFi figure in the new value-focussed Virgin Australia when it relaunches next month?

By David Flynn, October 26 2020
Virgin Australia looks to reboot inflight WiFi

Virgin Australia's new owners Bain Capital hope to reboot the airline's inflight WiFi service as part of its new "customer service proposition", although the shape of the WiFi packages – and how they fit into the airline's value-centric 'hybrid' model – remains to be seen.

Bain has severed Virgin's contract with connectivity partner Gogo, which is in the process of selling its commercial airline business to satellite colossus Intelsat for US$400m to focus on business jet connectivity and 5G air-to-ground networks.

However, Virgin reportedly remains in discussions with Optus, which carried the airline's inflight Internet signal on a fourth-generation Optus D2 satellite launched in 2007.

"Since we entered voluntary administration in April, all contracts and agreements across the Group have been reviewed, renegotiated or repudiated in order to exit administration with a competitive cost base," a Virgin Australia spokesman told Executive Traveller.

A spokesman for Optus said the telco does "not publicly disclose details of potential or customers discussions due to confidentiality."

Virgin initially opted for a combination of free and paid WiFi on domestic flights.
Virgin initially opted for a combination of free and paid WiFi on domestic flights.

Virgin Australia launched inflight WiFi in April 2017 – the same month as rival Qantas – although while Qantas pitched its service as being fast and free for every passenger, Virgin settled on a combination of free and paid access.

The basic WiFi connection was earmarked as "suitable for lightweight Web browsing, email and social media at around 1Mbps", the airline said at the time, although many travellers noted free speeds in the vicinity of 10Mbps.

For $12, passengers could reserve a fast connection for what the airline described as "higher-bandwidth applications such as video streaming and downloading large files or attachments."

However, Virgin beat Qantas to the punch in offering WiFi on international flights, with costs starting at $7 per hour to New Zealand and stretching out to a $20 'flight pass' to or from Los Angeles.

How will WiFi figure in the new value-focussed Virgin Australia 2.0?
How will WiFi figure in the new value-focussed Virgin Australia 2.0?

Virgin's inflight WiFi has been switched off since the airline collapsed into administration but is expected to be one plank in the new Virgin Australia 2.0 platform.

This will see the Bain-owned Virgin Australia adjust its course away from being a full-service competitor against Qantas and become a mid-market "hybrid airline offering great value to customers by delivering a distinctive Virgin Australia experience at competitive prices," a spokesman for Bain Capital told Executive Traveller.

One option for Bain would be to restart the previous tiered plan, albeit with stricter speed limiting enforced on the free service.

Another would be to dial back the free service to cover only messaging apps – such as WeChat, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, along with the chat programs of Apple and Android devices – in line with several overseas carriers, among them Virgin's US partner Delta Air Lines.

Virgin's incoming CEO Jayne Hrdlicka is expected to detail the airline's new value-based offering in the coming weeks.

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

09 Aug 2015

Total posts 55

Nobody needs free wifi on the 'golden triangle' routes between Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. I've used it on flights with Qantas and Virgin because it was there, but I wouldn't have paid for it. I think a free messaging service would be the best fit for Virgin, if people want more than that they should be prepared to pay for it.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

29 Oct 2014

Total posts 3

not to mention that the paid Wi-Fi model on low coast operators just doesn't work, at best a 6% take-up rate on full fair carriers. A free messaging service is absolutely the best model for a 'golden triangle' route sector with 1-2 hour flights.

I don't reckon we will see free WiFi return to Virgin unless it's a messaging-only service. People have no idea how much it costs airlines to offer WiFi, Virgin would have been up for many tens of thousands a month just for domestic coverage. There's really no way you can afford to give that away free and no way you can sell enough paid packages to come anywhere near the cost. For this new 'value VA2' free WiFi just doesn't make sense. Bain will ditch it, just like they will ditch economy snacks and drinks, and use that to leverage down the ticket price based on a lower cost base.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

10 Jun 2020

Total posts 6

I never paid too expensive for not much benefit even on SYD-PER flights. Inflight entertainment/movies I liked that was good to have it free as only time I got to see some movies. However if they don't offer that I wont be upset as now alot of people have access to netflix etc. Just have to remember to download a movie or show beforehand.


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