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UPDATE | Qantas has now revealed details of its A380 in-flight Internet trial, which will run for six weeks from February on flights from Sydney and Melbourne to Los Angeles – read our full report here.
EXCLUSIVE | Qantas will begin trialling in-flight internet on its international Airbus A380 planes early next year.
While full details won’t be revealed until next month, Australian Business Traveller has learned that the tests of satellite-based Internet will be carried out on a limited number of A380 flights to either Singapore/London or Los Angeles.
“We will be embarking on a contained connectivity trial early next year, targetting some of our A380 aircraft” Alison Webster, Qantas Executive Manager for Customer Experience, told Australian Business Traveller.
The trial will make good on the airline’s 2007 pledge, before its flasghip A380 fleet entered service, that the superjumbos would offer Wi-Fi internet access in all classes, from tip to tail, along with limited Web and email access via seat-back screens for those not travelling with a laptop or tablet.
(Ironically, the promise that “customers in every cabin will also be able to remain connected throughout their flight with wireless connectivity, in-seat laptop power, USB and (network) ports allowing them to surf the internet or send and receive emails directly from their seat or personal laptop” came from John Borghetti, then Qantas’ marketing director and now of course CEO of challenger Virgin Australia.)
Pleasingly, making mile-high calls from your mobile phone is not likely to be part of the trial, with Webster saying the use of mobile phones "continues to polarise people."
"Some people love the idea and some people hate it" she explains. "We currently have phones on our A380s with swipe (credit) card access and it's a very low utilised service, so we're not confirmed on (mobile phone access) at all. We're obviously mindful of the 'disturbance factor' for other passengers, and also the price point, so our focus will be on email, Web and SMS capability."
Earlier this 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 straw poll indicated that two-thirds of AusBT readers would pay $10-$20 for Internet access on international flights.
Webster stressed that next month's trial of wi-fi streaming of entertainment to iPads was not part of an in-flight Internet solution.
"The trial of Q Streaming and the Lufthansa system we are using is absolutely about in-flight entertainment" she told Australian Business Traveller. "It's not necessarily the platform that will take us to in-flight Internet, that's something we are looking at separately."