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Virgin Australia is now offering free inflight Internet on selected flights to Los Angeles as the airline begins equipping its Boeing 777-300ER jets with satellite WiFi.
Passengers on today's Melbourne-LAX flight VA23 will be the first to test the service, with a promo code sent to each seatback video screen allowing them to connect to the Internet free of charge.
That first WiFi Boeing 777 (registration VH-VPE) will be shared between the Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane routes to Los Angeles and back, and will be joined by a second WiFi Boeing 777 before the end of December.
Virgin expects all five Boeing 777s to be upgraded by May 2018, and says that Internet access will remain free during a public 'beta test' of the system – although a spokesperson for the airline was unable to advise how long that trial period would run for.
The airline will at some stage shift to a paid service for international WiFi, with Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti previously telling Australian Business Traveller that he intends to "surprise and delight" passengers with a range of options.
"You want to try and have a structure in place that meets all customers' needs and segment the market," Borghetti elaborated, hinting at a series of either data-based or time-based packages.
Those prices will however be discounted to an 'introductory special' rate until all five Boeing 777s are upgraded by May 2018, at which time the full pricing will kick in.
On the domestic front, Virgin Australia will start charging passengers an as-yet-unknown price for a high-speed connection on its Boeing 737s as of January 1, 2018, although a slower connection suitable for Web browsing, email and social media will remain free of charge.
The airline will have just three of its 78 Boeing 737-800 jets running WiFi by the end of this year – although it expects to reach the halfway mark around the middle of 2018.
"We'll be fitting one Boeing 737 aircraft (with WiFi) every eight days until the end of March 2018, and after that one aircraft will be completed every four days," a Virgin Australia spokesperson told Australian Business Traveller.
"The majority of our Boeing 737 aircraft are expected to be completed by the end of 2018, with only a handful to be completed in January 2019."
The twin-aisle Airbus A330s most often seen on east-west flights will get their WiFi upgrade from late 2018 through to early 2020.