Qantas steams towards half of its Boeing 737 fleet having WiFi

By David Flynn, February 26 2018
Qantas steams towards half of its Boeing 737 fleet having WiFi

Qantas is marching towards a mid-year milestone for installing WiFi across its domestic Boeing 737 fleet, with around half of the workhorse jets expected to boast the fast and free Internet service by the end of June.

With some 22 of around 80 Boeing 737s already sporting that tell-tale satellite hump, the airline says the remainder of the fleet is being upgraded "at a rate of approximately one aircraft per week".

Doing the maths shows that as we enter the second half of the year, there'll be a 50:50 chance that your Qantas flight – at least on routes running the single-aisle Boeing 737s – will let you stay connected not only above the clouds but on a gate-to-gate basis.

AusBT review: Qantas WiFi delivers 10-15Mbps above the clouds

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce says the WiFi rollout is being underwritten by continued bumper results which saw the Flying Kangaroo tuck away a pre-tax profit of $976 million across the first six months of the 2018 financial year.

(We're awaiting word on when the Qantas WiFi system will be extended to Airbus A330s, as this will certainly be useful on those five-hour transcontinental journeys which can eat up the better part of your working day).

However, once inflight Internet crosses that 50% threshold, something interesting happens from the passenger's perspective: the presence of WiFi moves away from 'surprise and delight' and edges into the realm of a service you expect will be there.

From the passenger's perspective, it goes from an exciting novelty to expected norm – and ironically, the closer Qantas gets to a "100% WiFi" fleet, the more disappointing it will be for frequent flyers who've come to rely on WiFi but find themselves on a humpless Boeing 737.

(That said, we could be wrong: some travellers may well rejoice to set foot on a flight where they've got a bulletproof reason not to be online.)

It's a bit like the later days of Qantas' Airbus A330 business class upgrade, when most of the A330s sported the new Business Suite but some stragglers were still flying the old 2-2-2 recliners.

However, Qantas is playing a stronger hand than Virgin Australia, which will charge passengers an as-yet-undisclosed fee for a high-speed WiFi connection, although the slower service will remain free.

Read more: Virgin Australia delays launch of paid WiFi until February 2018

Virgin will counter Qantas' zero-dollar domestic WiFi deal by offering inflight Internet – also at still-unknown costs – on flights to New Zealand, Los Angeles and Hong Kong.

What's your experience to date with Qantas WiFi? As more Boeing 737s come kitted out with the tech, are you using it increasingly often – or are you determined to stay among the 'digital detox' brigade?

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.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Jan 2018

Total posts 93

Excellent news, but long overdue. The US carriers, despite lagging behind Australian carriers (QF in any case) on almost every other measure have had this for years. Anyway, I for one welcome it.


No doubt there will be a few negative people who will say this is the death of the last remaining sanctuaries from the 24/7 ever connected world we live in.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1387

Think it's a matter of availability. The NBN SkyMuster satellite have enabled this service, most of the historic US systems used ground based systems though are mostly moving to satellite.


Internationally, still some work to get comparable systems with enough bandwidth for a decent number of passengers on the mostly oceanic routes that QF mostly flies (satellites tend to focus spots on land)

Virgin is using Gogo and the older Optus satellites.

QF

04 Apr 2014

Total posts 205

Except WiFi on US domestics is generally so slow it’s next to useless. I travel a lot in the US and nowadays plan not to have connectivity.

28 Aug 2016

Total posts 22

I wholeheartedly agree. I was using AA Wi-Fi, IAD to LAX a few weeks ago and spent most of my time trying to stay online. Last week I was on a CBR bound Qantas flight and it was perfectly from beginning to end. It really is next generation. Hope I get a WiFi WF tonight on my way home.

MarkJohnSon Banned
MarkJohnSon Banned

19 Jan 2018

Total posts 88

It's an extremely impressive roll-out pace by Mr. Joyce and the team over at QF. The QF engineering division is world-class.


It's already difficult enough for VA to compete with QF domestically, this may well turn out to be the proverbial nail in the coffin.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1102

I don't quite understand your comment. Both VA and QF will have effectively their entire 737 fleets fitted with wifi by Christmas.


QF look like having their domestic A330s fitted out well in advance of VA. Conversely, VA will offer trans-Pacific wifi well in advance of QF with all VA 777s being fitted out by May. QF will not commence fit out on its A380s/789s fleet for at least another year. Its SkyMuster solution is not suitable for global operations so I don't know what that means for A330s operating into Asia or the Pacific.

05 May 2016

Total posts 630

Have only had the in-flight Wi-Fi on one flight but it was fantastic. They waited till closing the door before turning it on which was disappointing.


It did drop out once or twice but I was able to do things I've never down before on an aircraft. It was fantastic!

28 Aug 2016

Total posts 22

You can still use the cell network until the door is closed.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Mar 2012

Total posts 214

I still love being 'disconnected' in the air.

MarkJohnSon Banned
MarkJohnSon Banned

19 Jan 2018

Total posts 88

You can be disconnected at any time you choose by turning off your phone.

bsb
bsb

21 Jul 2011

Total posts 83

I’m in one as I write this, it’s my second trip on one. It’s slower than I expected but it’s fine


I’m not sure I like it. The plane was one place I could unplug, but maybe I’m a luddite

MarkJohnSon Banned
MarkJohnSon Banned

19 Jan 2018

Total posts 88

Now that's meta!

21 Apr 2017

Total posts 14

Does the wifi hump effect fuel efficiency? In this day & age when the bean counters at airlines are looking for cost savings , that hump surely must have some effect.

Or, is it a cost the airline just wears to satisfy the customer?

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2547

You'd expect that such a bump would unavoidably have some effect, albeit a relatively small one, and one imagines the companies behind the tech – in this case, the boffins at Viasat – have made it as streamlined as can be, and I'd suggest the result would be minimal and even so, simply accepted as part of the bigger picture.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Jan 2018

Total posts 93

Looks like I was correct in my prediction about some people being a tad negative about it. The solution though is simply to turn off your device and disconnect when you want to be left alone.


Glad to hear people are already getting good use of it. I have certainly found it very useful on flights overseas, even if just to stay in touch with friends and family or, dare I say it, to catch up on the latest on AusBT.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Oct 2013

Total posts 710

I just flew back from Ayers Rock on Virgin and agree that the wifi is becoming an expected type of service...


Fridays flight was operated by a WiFi enabled aircraft but today's flight was not but this didn't stop the people sitting next to me spending the three hours trying to refresh facebook or google.

I wonder if it'd become useful for the flight attendants to announce either "this aircraft does not have wifi onboard" or something like that during boarding to let everyone know.

14 Nov 2017

Total posts 2

Would love to have WiFi on one of the most expensive flight paths in Australia - Mount Isa -Brisbane return.....however all the 737's have been removed from service and replaced with F100's. Unfortunately we no longer have business class, let alone on-board entertainment - so I guess WiFi would be out of the question as well.


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