Qantas is ramping up the rollout of inflight Internet across its domestic fleet while rival Virgin Australia extends its WiFi reach to US routes.
Qantas has now kitted out 15 of its 80 Boeing 737-800 jets in the seven months since the launch of the Qantas WiFi service, with the airline stepping up to a second-generation or 'Gen2' technology platform which it says will deliver even faster speeds compared to its original testbed WiFi system fitted onto the first aircraft.
"Our goal is to give our customers the best inflight Wi-Fi experience in Australia," says Qantas Chief Customer Officer, Olivia Wirth. "We’ve installed ViaSat’s next generation in-flight WiFi service, which delivers speeds up to 10 times faster than conventional on-board WiFi."
Wirth also confirms that the domestic Airbus A330s which ply the east-west routes will start to sprout the same technology from early 2018, putting Qantas on track to have its entire domestic Boeing 737 and Airbus A330 fleet online by the end of 2018.
(It's unlikely that the smaller regional QantasLink jets such as the Boeing 717, Fokker 100 and Bombardier Dash 8 will be fitted with inflight WiFi.)
Qantas will then turn its eye to international flights, although even the airlines' factory-fresh Boeing 787 Dreamliners aren't being delivered with WiFi on board.
This is where Virgin Australia believes it has an opportunity to steal the march on Qantas, with the challenger set to offer inflight Internet on flights to Los Angeles from the end of this month.
The first of the airline's five Boeing 777-300ER jets is currently being fitted with satellite WiFi, with its four siblings being upgraded through to April 2018.
WiFi pricing for the Australia-US routes has yet to be revealed.
Things are moving more slowly on the domestic front. A spokesperson for Virgin Australia confirmed to Australian Business Traveller that only its third Boeing 737 will receive WiFi in December, while the Airbus A330s – which are being tapped for Virgin's Asian expansion – "won't be done until the end of 2019."