Inflight Internet is virtually ubiquitous these days with most major airlines offering some form of sky-high WiFi – and while this has traditionally attracted sky-high prices to match, the cost of connecting mid-flight is on the decline, with some airlines now even offering the service for free.
Among them: Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Finnair, Qantas and Virgin Australia: and if the trend continues, the prospect of paying for inflight Internet could soon mirror the same concept at hotels, where Internet access once cost a small fortune but now comes at no charge for most guests.
Australian Business Traveller highlights five airlines that provide some form of free inflight Internet, including how you can take advantage on your next domestic or international flight.
Emirates: free Airbus A380, Boeing 777 inflight Internet
A business or first class ticket with Emirates now buys unlimited free WiFi with the Gulf carrier, provided you’re also a member of the Emirates Skywards program and enter your Skywards number via the login screen to gain access.
Passengers booked in economy aren’t forgotten either, with the previous allowance of 10MB now boosted to 20MB for use within two hours of first connecting: although further browsing now costs US$9.99 for 150MB or US$15.99 for 500MB if you’re stuck down the back.
It’s a win for business travellers trying to get work done at the pointy end, because Emirates’ previous offer of 10MB of free Internet for all – and just US$1 for a further 500MB – frequently resulted in speeds so slow as to be entirely unusable: these new prices hopefully tapering demand and bringing faster Internet to all users.
AusBT review: Emirates Airbus A380, Boeing 777 inflight Internet
Finnair: free Airbus A330, A350 inflight Internet
Travel on any Finnair Airbus A350, or most Finnair A330s, and you’ll similarly find WiFi at-hand: complimentary for the entire flight for Finnair Platinum and Oneworld Emerald frequent flyers travelling in any cabin, including Qantas Platinum, Platinum One and Chairman’s Lounge.
Business class passengers, Finnair Gold and Oneworld Sapphire frequent flyers (such as Qantas Gold) instead receive one hour of complimentary connectivity and can purchase further access at standard rates, being €7.95 for one hour, €11.95 for three hours or €19.95 for the entire flight.
(Previously, access was complimentary for the entire flight for these travellers, but has recently been trimmed back to an hour.)
Finnair doesn’t fly its own aircraft to Australia, although does fly its Airbus A350s from both Hong Kong and Singapore to Helsinki, Finland, which can be booked as part of a connecting journey from Australia via Qantas, British Airways and Cathay Pacific.
AusBT review: Finnair Airbus A350 inflight Internet
Qantas: free Boeing 737 inflight WiFi
Your next Qantas domestic flight may provide sky-high WiFi if you chance upon the airline’s current Boeing 737 test aircraft (registration VH-XZB) – set to be joined by a second WiFi-equipped Boeing 737 later this month and a connected Airbus A330 shortly thereafter.
There are no time or download limits to get in your way, and access is completely free for all travellers: not just those seated in business class or with a shiny frequent flyer card.
Just enter your first name, last name and seat number to get online, with typical download speeds of around 10-15Mbps to be expected: fast enough for streaming Netflix in high definition and downloading large files and email attachments.
AusBT review: Qantas Boeing 737 inflight Internet
Virgin Australia: free Boeing 737 inflight WiFi
Qantas challenger Virgin Australia is also trialling sky-high WiFi aboard a single Boeing 737, and during that trial period, access is free for all passengers – again with no time or download limits.
The airline hasn’t yet revealed whether the service will remain free for any flyers following the conclusion of the trial: instead, it’s believed to be considering a two-tiered pricing model, with a higher price for a higher speed – such as for streaming video – and a reduced price for low-data tasks like emails and basic browsing.
The prospect of keeping the internet fee-free is still on the table, however, as is the idea of offering the first 30 minutes free and charging for further access, so until a final decision is made, make the most of the complimentary access!
AusBT review: Virgin Australia Boeing 737 inflight Internet
Cathay Pacific: free Airbus A350 inflight Internet
Ordinarily, Cathay Pacific charges for its inflight Internet – either US$9.95 for one hour or US$19.95 for the entire flight on journeys over six hours – but by completing a few quick questions, you can get the first hour free.
On the main hotspot homepage, ignore the prices up the top and instead scroll down until you see ‘get free WiFi’. Click it, enter a few details and voila, you’ll be given a voucher code that you can redeem through the main portal for one hour of complimentary surfing.
Cathay Pacific currently offers inflight Internet aboard its Airbus A350 aircraft, including on selected flights between Hong Kong and Melbourne, Brisbane and London, although not on its Airbus A330s, Boeing 777s or other jets.
AusBT review: Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 inflight Internet