When, and how, will Virgin Australia bring back inflight WiFi?

The return of WiFi is a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’, the airline says, but expect some changes...

By David Flynn, April 11 2022
When, and how, will Virgin Australia bring back inflight WiFi?

Virgin Australia is flying high, especially in sharpening its appeal to business travellers.

Just shy of 18 months after the airline was sold to Bain Capital, the US-based private equity firm’s ‘rescue, reset & reboot’ plan looks to be largely complete. And while the new Virgin Australia has carefully positioned itself as a mid-market airline, pointy-end passengers haven’t been overlooked.

Entry-level fares on the country’s busiest routes – the ‘triangle’ between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane – have been slashed to $299 on an ongoing non-sale basis, with premium passengers enjoying a fresh and decidedly non-fussy take on inflight dining.

A new Virgin Australia Business Flyer loyalty program is targeting the substantial small-to-medium enterprise (SME) market, which comprises 99.8% of Australia’s businesses, with flight discounts, double-dipping on points and complimentary Velocity Gold membership.

For the top end of town, the invitation-only Virgin Australia Beyond program – a relaunch of The Club – will arrive on April 20, with members promised elite privileges beginning with access to VIP airport lounges in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane if they steer enough of their corporate travel spend to Virgin.

A rolling refresh of the Virgin Australia lounges is underway, swapping corporate framework for a more casual vibe, and with more Boeing 737s joining the fleet the airline has forecast an increase in flights darting between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

It’s all aimed at locking down a share of Australia’s domestic business travel market as a rich layer of icing on a 33% slice of the overall air traffic cake.

But there’s still something missing: inflight WiFi.

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 hasn’t switched on its satellite-based WiFi system since the airline soared into administration in April 2020.

Yet Qantas continues to offer fast and free WiFi on almost all domestic flights, and challenger Regional Express has activated WiFi on its own Boeing 737 jets

While Executive Traveller understands the return of Virgin Australia WiFi remains on the radar, it’s expected to take a different shape to original service launched in early 2017.

That setup offered a combination of free and paid access, compared to Qantas' approach of the Internet being fast and free for every passenger.

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."

Speaking with Executive Traveller in mid-2021, Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka noted “WiFi is on the cards (but) the WiFi product that we had before, we didn't think was serving our guests as well as it might.”

“So we're working our way through what the best alternatives look like, the best way to think through WiFi and how important it is to our guests.”

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?

One option, which would be in keeping with Virgin's new 'value' proposition, might be to scrap the free WiFi tier and charge passengers (although perhaps making an exception for business class flyers) to jump online – on the basis that if they don't want WiFi, then it doesn't need to be priced into their fare.

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.

Virgin could also resume the previous tiered plan but impose much stricter speed limiting on the free service.

Executive Traveller readers: what would you like to see from Virgin Australia’s rebooted inflight WiFi?

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

25 Jul 2013

Total posts 63

Can't come soon enough ... wifi + USB chargers in all seats would be super handy. 

If they're going to charge, then free wifi for Velocity Gold / Platinums would be most welcome.

It seems the loyalist flyers with VA are disenfranchised with the whole airline at the moment and no one really cares if they have Wi Fi or not on a flight.

I'm okay with the two-tier structure, people should have to pay for WiFi if they want to use it, in this regard it's a bit like meals in economy class. I think free messaging would be nice, as these are very popular these days. But in business class there should be some WiFi included.

11 Apr 2022

Total posts 1

One of my pet peeves is when hotels (and sometimes restuarents) add a charity donation to the bill, usually for UNICEF. And then you have to ask to have it removed and you look cheap. I do give to charity, but want to do it directly and get the benefit of the tax dedution. If they want to give to charity from their own funds, that's up to them.

I do think it is becoming harder for hotels to make money from anything but the room. They used to make much of their  margin from phone calls (then came the mobile), wifi (then became standard), movies (then came the iPad), room service (then came the delivery services) etc.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Oct 2017

Total posts 1

From this article, it's pretty clear that the East Coast is VA's target and WA isn't registering on their radar, WiFi is another example of where QANTAS/JETSTAR are thinking more about their West Coast passengers with our average flight times exceeding 3 hrs.  Having flown VA since its inception I am now for the first time considering alternatives.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

20 Feb 2012

Total posts 1

The question that needs answered for frequent flyers is when will the premium entrances and exits open??? There is little reason for FF’s to use them until that comes back on line. Especially with the current queues and bedlam at most domestic terminals. 

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