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With 2Mbps top speeds and an NZ$30 pricetag, Air New Zealand's Boeing 777 WiFi service asks too much for too little.
For an airline which likes to consider itself as being technology-forward, Air New Zealand is a late-comer to inflight Internet and you could be forgiven for wondering if the delay was worth it.
It wasn't. I recently had the chance to try Air New Zealand's inflight WiFi service on a Boeing 777-300ER flight from Auckland to Los Angeles and was underwhelmed by the speed and pricing.
First, the speed. My connection never went above 2Mbps as the download rate and spent most of the time around 1.0-1.5Mbps. Combined with an upload speed of 0.5Mbps and a very high latency this made even basic Web browsing and Facebook very sluggish and of course video such as YouTube was unusable.
Messaging apps like Skype and WhatsApp worked fine and Gmail was acceptable once I selected the 'Basic HTML version' option which is intended for slow connections. You can find this option at the lower-right corner of your Gmail screen when you log in. Don't use normal laptop email software like Outlook or Apple Mail, stick with the Web-based email front-ends.
And how much did Air New Zealand expect me to pay for this? NZ$40, which is around A$37. That's for the entire flight, for some reason the airline doesn't offer cheaper short-time packages such as one hour or 3-4 hours.
This means the same price applies to Boeing 777 flights between NZ and Australia to those which run all the way from Auckland to Los Angeles: you pay the same high price to stay connected for the entire flight, or you don't go online at all.
It looks like most passengers were choosing not to go online at all because Air New Zealand has since dropped the price to NZ$30 (A$28) but even then I would not bother paying for it again unless I was very desperate to get connected during my flight.
The Weekend Herald reported the $40 pricing and the reaction of a customer who said he felt he was ''burning money'' for the service on a three-hour flight to Melbourne. The cost is the same as that on long-haul routes.
Air New Zealand currently has WiFi available on only some of its Boeing 777-300ERs but has promised it will be added to the older Boeing 777-200s, Boeing 787 Dreamliners and shorter-range Airbus A320 family jets beginning later this year. Let's hope that speeds get higher while prices get lower.