It's been a long time coming, and it's still a way off, but Qantas is finally gearing up for in-flight internet on domestic and international services.
At today's launch of the Qantas-Optus frequent flyer partnership, Qantas exec Simon Hickey confirmed that sky-high surfing is definitely on the cards – and the challenge is now less technical than it is 'social'.
"It’s about what customers want" Hickey explained. "They want email services, but they don't want the guy next to them shouting away on the phone for the hour they’re going to Melbourne or the 12 hours they’re going to LA, (so) we’ve got to be careful how we roll that out."
For Qantas, this means finding the balance between essentially private laptop- and tablet-based activities, and the seatmate scourge of a long and loud mobile phone call or Skype chat session.
"But a lot of other customers tell us ‘I get on that aircraft and I just want to sit back and just read a book or watch a movie, this is where I get away from it all'" Hickey said. At least those passengers will have the choice not to use the Net.
Qantas recently completed what an airline spokeswoman called "a fleet-wide connectivity review", and in June polled passengers on its select 'customer experience panel' as to how they would typically use in-flight Internet (see a screenshot of the online survey below).
The survey also asked "How much would you be willing to pay for connectivity services per domestic flight, regardless of flight time?", although this was an open-ended question rather than presenting a list of pricing options.
When Australian Business Traveller asked readers how much they'd pay for in-flight Internet, 39% said they'd not pay the Red Roo a red cent for internet on flights lasting less than three hours, although 36% allowed that $5 would be a fair ask.
On flights from four to six hours, which includes coast-to-coast transcontinental services, two-thirds of our survey respondents would be prepared to pay $5-$10 to stay connected, with the same majority settling on $10-$20 for Internet on international flights of 7-20 hours.
A survey in July showed that Australian business travellers rated inflight internet as a key factor that would influence their choice of airline.