Well, it finally happened. Qantas has switched in inflight Wi-Fi for travellers onboard its Boeing 737-800.
Despite a slow start that came with some delays, including cancelling the official media launch last week, today there was lift off at last.
Following months of performance testing with global broadband services provider ViaSat and the nbn Sky Muster satellite service, the Wi-Fi will now operate in beta mode on a single Boeing 737-800.
This will allow customers to test the service out and give feedback while Qantas finetunes the system.
Testing should be completed by mid-year, around the same time Virgin Australia (recently) announced it would be testing its own inflight Wi-Fi. Cheeky little things.
Post-testing, the installation of the technology is expected to begin on Qantas’ domestic fleet of Airbus 330s and Boeing 737s. The roll-out across 80 aircraft will be completed at the end of 2018.
The Qantas system offers speeds up to 10 times faster than conventional on-board Wi-Fi and gives customers the ability to stream stuff through content partnerships with Foxtel, Stan, Netflix and Spotify.
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce hosted a charter flight over New South Wales, with passengers invited to test the system before it’s switched on for selected commercial flights from today.
Customer research commissioned by Qantas recently showed the most popular uses for Wi-Fi on domestic flights would be a mix of emails (52% of all respondents), general internet browsing (46%), streaming music/TV/movies (31%), social media (30%) and news (30%).
In the spirit of launching its Wi-Fi, finder.com.au released data showing that 56% of respondents like the idea of Wi-Fi becoming available on domestic airlines, while 19% said they don’t like the idea, and 25% are indifferent.
Only 7% of Aussies prefer to stay disconnected inflight, and 6% are worried about Wi-Fi being used with ill intentions.
Of those who said they like the idea, the top reasons were:
- It’ll keep them entertained with their own movies and TV shows (30%)
- They’ll get to keep in touch with friends and family via social media (18%)
- They’ll get more work done (4%)
- They’ll have the chance to Skype/voice call friends and family (3%)
And for those against:
- They prefer to stay disconnected, it’s more peaceful (7%)
- They are worried about it being used with ill intentions (6%)
- They’ll have to listen to other people on the phone/on Skype (5%)
- They’ll have to work on the flight (when travelling for work) (1%)
“Inflight Wi-Fi has been on our wish list for quite a while, but the sheer size of Australia meant it was hard to offer a service that was fast and reliable. The nbn has made it possible and we’re really pleased to be able to tap into this service,” Joyce said.
“The technology we’re using on-board this 737 is a generation ahead of what most airlines around the world have and there’s a fair amount of complexity involved. That’s why we’ve installed it on one aircraft for the first few months until we’ve finished fine tuning and are ready to roll out to the rest of the domestic fleet.
“On flights between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, where we have a lot of business travellers, we expect the system to get a real work out with email and web browsing. We also know customers want down time, which is why we’ve partnered with streaming services like Foxtel and Stan so there’s no shortage of things to help people tune out.
“From a competitive perspective, today’s announcement puts us in a very strong position. No other domestic airline is offering its passengers next-generation Wi-Fi with a commitment that it’ll continue to be included in the price of the fare.
“Behind the scenes, it opens the door to us making us more efficient through better flight planning and real-time itinerary management.”
Up to 15,000 Qantas customers per month will experience in-flight Wi-Fi during the initial beta period, increasing to around 15 million per year once the rollout to 80 domestic aircraft is complete.