Qantas, Virgin Australia stream ahead with domestic WiFi in 2019

By David Flynn, January 10 2019

Qantas and Virgin Australia have both passed the halfway mark in their rollout of domestic WiFi, giving passengers a 50/50 chance that their next flight will allow them to stay connected above the clouds.

Here’s where the two airlines stand in the sky-high WiFi stakes.

A spokesman for Qantas tells Australian Business Traveller that as at the start of January, its high-speed Internet system was installed on 42 of the airline’s target of 75 Boeing 737 jets, with the remainder to be upgraded by the end of 2019.

However, this falls short of previous promises that all of the singe-aisle Boeing workhorses would be WiFi-equipped “by early 2019”.

The spokesman said the extended rollout schedule is due to “prioritising network availability and also trying to match up WiFi installation with other scheduled maintenance so that aircraft aren’t being pulled out of service unnecessarily.”

“Our engineering and network schedule does fluctuate and is always being revised… it’s a balance of getting WiFi installed while not impacting scheduled services.”

Qantas has also begun adding inflight Internet to the larger Airbus A330s typically seen on east-west routes, with one of the twin-aisle jets already sporting that tell-tale dome antenna and four more due to be upgraded by the end of the March. Five more A330s will be WiFi-enabled by the end of 2019.

All of these will offer Qantas’ free broadband-grade Internet service, which regularly clocks around 10-15Mbps, with new software updates arriving to further improve the service.

Virgin Boeing 737 WiFi pushed back to 2020

Virgin Australia also claims to have WiFi on 42 of its 80-odd domestic Boeing 737s “with the majority of the fleet to be completed this calendar year” – indicating that the airline’s complete Boeing 737 fleet won’t be Internet-enabled until sometime in 2020.

Virgin will start adding WiFi to its A330s aircraft from February, with the six-strong fleet “to be completed later this year”.

This will also see Internet offered on the A330’s international routes to Hong Kong.

Virgin’s domestic WiFi will remain free for a ‘basic’ 1Mbps connection suitable for social media, email and undemanding Web browsing, with a 12Mbps high-speed option available at prices starting from $9 per flight.

Inflight Internet on Virgin’s international routes starts from $7 per hour on trans-Tasman flights and $9 per hour to the USA, with per-flight passes at $13 and $20 respectively.

However, this year Virgin will add what its terms a “multi-use product” covering several international flights rather than passengers having to pay on a per-flight basis.

This could take the form of a single higher-priced “pass” valid across a series of WiFi flights – something which Virgin’s US technology partner Gogo already offers at US$50 per month for for the likes of Alaska Airlines, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines.

David
David

David Flynn

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.

Rigs

Rigs

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Dec 2015

Total posts 30

Free faster internet would be a great platinum frequent flyer perk.

Grannular

Grannular

31 Mar 2014

Total posts 287

I was on a Qantas A332 with the telltale Wifi hump on Christmas morning. Was disappointed to find it wasn't enabled. Was keen to give it a try over to Perth

moa999

moa999

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1373

Airliners.net list by qf789 list four aircraft (EBB, EBC, EBD and EBL with the hump) but possibly only switched on EBB which was the designated trial aircraft.

DownSouth

DownSouth

23 Oct 2014

Total posts 96

That schedule would put Virgin on top in the Wifi rollout, all 777’s to the US fitted and operating, Wifi already available on Tasman and pacific, and on par with 737 and 330 QF domestic rollout.

Bob Burgess

Bob Burgess

13 Sep 2016

Total posts 184

No, it would put Virgin behind Qantas in the Boeing 737 WiFi rollout. It would give Virgin the edge overall when you look at international WiFi but not domestic Boeing 737s and taking fleet size into account, not domestic A330s either.

john wayne

john wayne

23 Mar 2018

Total posts 21

Such a rabid fixation with staying "connected". Spend the time disconnected from the ground and other things. If you feel your workplace needs you to be connected every minute you fly........change jobs.

Bob Burgess

Bob Burgess

13 Sep 2016

Total posts 184

I can go without WiFi on a SYD-MEL hop but for a SYD-PER flight especially when it takes up a big chunk of my working day, I would find WiFi very handy and very welcome. And while I work for myself, not everybody has the luxury to 'change jobs' just because their company expects them to be productive during a daytime flight and not everybody finds it that much of an issue, I think.

songman

songman

20 Dec 2011

Total posts 14

On a transcontinental flight which takes up most of the working day, I can be far more productive with internet access. If I feel like relaxing, then inflight internet certainly won't prevent me from doing so.

GBRGB

GBRGB

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jan 2014

Total posts 209

With the growth of QLink 717 services to more destinations and more regularly I think it is a bit hollow of QF to say they are offering Wi Fi on their domestic services.

reeves35

reeves35

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 513

I notice that the A330s currently fitted are principally the older ex-"Cityflyer" A332s which principally concentrate on domestic services with only occassional int'l services. I assume this means they are fitted with the same domestic "Skymuster" based solution as the 737s rather than the completely international system that QF will install on the A380s and 787s. Does anybody know if this is correct?

David

David

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2322

That’s correct - the domestic Qantas A330s use the same WiFi system as the domestic Boeing 737s. The system to be used for Qantas’ international flights is still some years away.

Jon W

Jon W

25 Feb 2013

Total posts 59

I used the WiFi on the VA CBR-BNE and BNE-MKY legs and it worked quite well and was more than sufficient for a bit of work (via VPN), browsing and whatnot. My guess is that (like Gogo in the US) the speeds they state are underestimates to avoid disappointment and you really wouldn't need anything more unless you're streaming movies.

If only the lounge WiFi was as good!

Blake

Blake

03 May 2017

Total posts 19

I wish they could work out a way to give us some basic email, web, and IM access only, instead of accomadating those tossers who are streaming video and any other high bandwidth services and compromising the service for others and costing the airlines much more to provide it.

reeves35

reeves35

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 513

Isn't that precisely what the basic (and free) VA wifi offering provides?

AT

AT

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 245

I just flew QF Sydney Perth return on 737s over NY break and had WiFi both ways, it was fantastic so fast, able to watch movies on iPad without a buffer and flights were full each way and I’m sure a lot of people were connected which didn’t slow it down, and on QF it’s free! Reading this article looks like Virgin are charging!!! Just yet another reason on top of many to keep flying QF!

reeves35

reeves35

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 513

Being free is great but I don't quite understand why QF felt they had to give the service away.

The investment to introduce wifi is obviously significant. People understand that data costs money; they pay for it on their mobile and they pay for it on their home internet connection. Why would they expect that, for some reason, the airlines should give it away for nothing?

DownSouth

DownSouth

23 Oct 2014

Total posts 96

Virgins basic domestic WIFI offering is free.

patrickk

patrickk

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 395

The reason it is free is to attract customers. The same reason (unlike the US) that baggage check in is free. Jetstar is there if you wish to pay, and I am sure they will have wi-fi soon for a price.

rawlint

rawlint

11 Jan 2019

Total posts 2

I always find wifi a good to have and 90 per cent of my flights with VA have it onboard.

Is it just me or do most of the articles about wifi use Qantas branding for some reason with ABT?

David

David

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2322

Hi Rawlint - we use PR pics as supplied by the airlines and Qantas has supplied more & better pics than Virgin.

JanJ

JanJ

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Feb 2018

Total posts 1

Travelled Qantas Alice Springs to Melbourne return recently and there was great wifi on both flights.

Valerio

Valerio

Velocity

23 Feb 2016

Total posts 10

Just played with the free wifi on Virgin on MEL-SYD over past two days and was surprised that on a quieter flight I was able to even view instagram stories (albeit with a fair bit of buffering).
100% agree with previous comment that free high-speed wifi should be a platinum perk - would be attractive and useful to regular fliers.

Bek

Bek

28 Feb 2012

Total posts 2

What happened to the wifi installs on QF's A380s? Surely they didn't just toss everything out when they (stupidly) decided to close the service after trialling it a few years ago. Would have thought they could at least get those re-started for international flights.

moa999

moa999

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1373

Waiting for the new ViaSat3 Ka band satellites to launch which should provide similar bandwidth and speeds to the NBN satellites.

Remember their previous A380 trial had speeds of 0.1Mbps and 35Mb limits.

Geo

Geo

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Jan 2019

Total posts 1

Will they worry about fitting on Qantas link fleet? 717s run Wi-Fi streaming so hopefully?

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