UPDATE | Qantas has now begun its in-flight Internet trial on selected Airbus A380s – read our first-hand report of what it's like to do some sky-high surfing on the Red Roo!
PREVIOUS | Qantas will roll out in-flight Internet on selected Airbus A380 flights next month.
Six of the airline's flagship Airbus A380s flying from Sydney and Melbourne to Los Angeles will take part in a six-week trial beginning late February.
Passengers will be able to connect their smartphone, tablet or notebook to the A380's internal wireless network, with signals beamed through Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband satellite system.
The system will support regular Web browsing, email and apps but VoIP services such as Skype will be blocked, as will mobile phone calls.
A Qantas spokesperson told Australian Business Traveller that for the first few weeks of the trial – when access will be limited to passengers in the First and Business cabins – the service will be offered free of charge, before introducing a range of pay-to-surf packages to test uptake.
"Initially when we launch the trial it will be free, then there will be a period with several paid packages so we can get an indication of the demand at different price points" she said.
"We're working through the details of those packages at the moment, and once the trial is finished we'll be setting the cost based on that."
Last year Qantas polled a select group of passengers from its 12,000-strong Customer Experience Panel of frequent flyers on how they would typically use in-flight Internet and how much they'd be prepared to pay for the privilege.
While Qantas hasn't shared the details of that survey, our own poll of Australian Business Traveller readers indicated that two-thirds would pay $10-$20 for Internet access on international flights.
Following February's LAX trial Qantas will assess the system for wider deployment on other international flights, including the Kangaroo Route to London via Singapore and the new A380 service to Hong Kong.
Qantas has also begun trials of Apple’s iPad for in-flight entertainment, having pushed back the tests from October while final testing took place.
The 'Q Streaming' system will use wi-fi to stream content to the tablets from a central server on the aircraft, using technology developed by Lufthansa Systems as part of their BoardConnect platform – which has also been adopted by Virgin Australia for its own in-flight system set to debut in mid-2012.
The six-week trial will will be limited to a single Boeing 767-300 which will be scheduled across a variety of routes, from Sydney-Melbourne to transcontinental coast-to-coast services. [Read our detailed report here.]
Qantas' announcement comes as other airlines scramble to the starting gate for in-flight wireless.
Emirates this week launched in-flight Internet on its fleet of Airbus A380s (see our report here) and Virgin Australia plans wireless streaming of movies and music to tablets, smartphones and laptops on domestic flights, with in-flight Internet also on the cards...