Qantas: Internet likely on domestic flights before international

By David Flynn, January 22 2015
Qantas: Internet likely on domestic flights before international

Qantas isn't rushing to launch inflight Internet on its overseas routes but expects to first offer connectivity on domestic routes within Australia and is closely watching developments by Telstra and the National Broadband Network.

“Connectivity has been part of our strategic pipeline for a very long time” says Kylie Morris, Qantas’ Head of Creative Development and Customer Experience, "but there is more demand on domestic flights than international [flights]."

Several airlines – among them Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Etihad Airways, Garuda and JAL – offer sky-high surfing to passengers on flights into and out of Australia.

Emirates has gone so far as to make inflight Internet effectively free, with 10MB of data at no cost and the next 600MB for just $1.

Qantas trialled inflight Internet on selected Airbus A380 routes for nine months in 2012 but according to Morris “the uptake was less than 5%” for the satellite-based service.

AusBT review: Qantas' A380 in-flight wifi Internet trials

Kylie Morris: inflight Internet's time will come for Qantas, "but the time is not right now."
Kylie Morris: inflight Internet's time will come for Qantas, "but the time is not right now."

Part of the challenge, Morris says, is that half of Qantas’ international flights tend to overnight services to Australia “where there is very little demand because our customers want to sleep.”

“There's more uptake on daylight sectors than night, but holistically the demand isn't there” Morris tells Australian Business Traveller.

“In terms of where do we invest to create the greatest value, it’s more in our food and service and entertainment than connectivity.” 

Morris has no doubt that “the time will come” when Qantas will offer Inflight Internet, “but the time is not right now.”

“We’re continuing to look at it, we know it’s important to our customers” she stresses, but acknowledges that even on the domestic front it remains a tough nut to crack due to the lack of ground stations compared to the USA, while satellite options are slower and more expensive.

Base station vs satellite

Morris cited the coming wave of Ka-band satellites as the type of technology which could reliably deliver broadband above the clouds, but says "there needs to be a lot more technology investment to actually make it worth our while and to make sure that we can meet our customers’ expectations."

Telstra has been trialling a 4G system capable of delivering broadband speeds to domestic flights, with four dedicated mobile sites covering most of the commercial air corridor between Sydney and Melbourne.

During tests the system was able to reach peak speeds to the aircraft of 15Mbps, with an average throughput around 10Mbps – equivalent to a mid-range home or office ADSL2+ connection.

Read: Telstra tests 4G inflight Internet for Sydney-Melbourne route

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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.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Mar 2014

Total posts 574

Sounds like a nasty case of confirmation bias regarding the lack of demand on international flights. They're looking for all the reasons why people don't connect instead of marketing the product, tweaking the price model and making it easy to connect.

Although I do agree there's a demand for domestic internet, particularly when travelling during business hours. Charging sockets would be a welcomed addition. Nothing worse than disembarking from an ealry morning flight and you're rocking 45%!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2223

If I had internet on SIN-SYD, I'd never sleep...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jul 2014

Total posts 144

What was the price for the inflight internet trial? Was this a factor into the low uptake rate?

I used internet on a flight between LA and Vancouver, it was great. I would love to have it in March between Sydney and London and I would probably use it regardless of the time.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Mar 2014

Total posts 574

I'm not privvy to the specifics of the trial and the findings however I do believe it may have been too soon for it's own good. Australia is notroiusly late in public wifi take up, probably in part due to our wide open spaces. No doubt there was a school of doubters within Qantas and this trialed as an obligatory box ticking exercise. 

New technology takes time. I remember only 4 years ago thinking "why the hell would you need a giant phone that doesn't make calls?" Now I can't imagine going anywhere without my iPad!

I flew Singapore a few weeks back and missed out on internet on a sunday twiligt flight. It wasn't much fun.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2223

Indeed, only a year or two ago I was ridiculing the phablet craze, but here I am today toting a 5" Lumia 830.

I believe that inflight WiFi has its use for business travellers who need to remain online, but for me personally I'd much rather be disconnected. It allows me to exist just on board the aircraft which is actually very soothing.

Even for work, I would argue the ability to work on a report or presentation on board without the distraction of a zillion emails is entirely worthwhile, especially on longer international flights.

The argument for a need for connection is, I think, stronger on domestic flights like the Triangle, and I think QF is right on that one.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Mar 2014

Total posts 574

For me personally, the ability to communicate with clients and collegaues is more valuable than the down time afforded by and escape. 

I agree re the triangle, having a near seamless short flight when you're strapped to a seat is priceless. Usually when I travel the shorter routes, I disembark for driving / meetings / presentations etc. Having that seated time to respond to emails is very valuable.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2223

I think it really boils down to what kind of work you do.

Having said that, it should be possible on most devices to write your responses and queue them for a single 'burst' mailout once you hit the ground.

So I think it's worthwhile if subject to a fee. But I wouldn't use it on leisure flights, as I'm busy writing a trip report.

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 505

Monday I've got a 10 hour Qantas flight during daylight hours, it would be good to be online working.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1390

Think a one aircraft trial isn't exactly great for understanding user uptake.

If its only 1 aircraft most people will "pre-plan" to be without Internet - eg. have pre-downloaded reading materials etc.

It's also an issue that the satellites don't cover a decent amount of Qantas's routes (noted by the lack of coverage on other airlines flying to/from Australia)

Seemingly people will use it if its effectively free (eg. EK) but I suspect it is costing the airlines a chunk then

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 505

It's like bottled water you need to sell the idea

07 Oct 2012

Total posts 1259

I don't think it was a one aircraft trial... off my memory I thought it was A380 routes to the US.

The satellite issue is the problem and the cost. I can't see how EK is funding their interent scheme.

10 Mar 2011

Total posts 531

Makes sense to have it on domestic. I tried in on an international flight and whilst it was nice to have I didn't find that I used it that much after the novelty wore off. There is also the issue that you can't use it when you fly over certain countries which meant that there were times when you couldn't connect anyway. I rather ambivalent about it really.

10 Sep 2012

Total posts 151

If you can't survive a SYD-MEL sector without the internet, then there's something seriously wrong, and you should seek psychological help for your addiction.

 

Anyone whose function is important that they absolutely must be in contact with the outside world at all times is unlikely to be flying commerical.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Feb 2014

Total posts 451

Qantas just looks for every excuse in the book when it comes to inflight internet.  No/little demand on international flights? As if.

And as for concentrating on the SYD-MEL corridor...why? I understand that's Australias busiest route, but it's only an hour off the internet.  SYD/BNE/MEL - PER however....at 5 hours, that's pretty frustrating for a domestic sector with no internet connectivity when you're on business...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Mar 2012

Total posts 212

I love my time off line when travelling Perth to Syd/Melb/Bris...gives me time to get things done, read or think without the interuptions of the regular workday. Or indeed sit back and watch a movie at the end of the day when flying home.  

28 Oct 2012

Total posts 1

I think qantas is living in a bubble . while qantas has been navel gazing etihad has leapt ahead and equipped all its planes with the latest technology and connectivity . I fly etihad regularly from Melbourne and brisbane to Europe . for only 21 dollars (in every class) I get full internet connectivity which works beautifully as if I am on the ground in my office. not only that I get 6 channels of live tv for free including cnn and bbc world which again works flawlessly and is available from gate to gate. in addition I have gsm which automatically connects with my iPhone after take off. I can happily keep in touch with whatsapp SMS and I can make and receive calls . yes that's right . receive calls . and etihad don't skimp on the excellent dine on demand full menu and kitchen menu catering served up with amazing wines by an f and b manager in j and a chef in f. on top of that their entire wide body fleet has flat beds in business and first according to the flight crew I chatted with on the last flight. she also told me that nearly all their fleet is equipped with Internet gsm and live tv now . if you are wondering what all this connectivity is like try it once .. I gaurantee you will love it! you don't want to get off the plane . I can't wait to try their a380 and 787 when they come to oz later in the year 


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