Aviation

Virgin hints at international inflight Wi-Fi

Hannah Edensor

Virgin Australia is pushing to rival Qantas on the inflight Wi-Fi front, claiming to be taking it from domestic to international imminently.

According to Australian Business Traveller, Virgin has plans to expands its service to cover the USA and Asia, while also getting it on more of its domestic fleet.

Virgin Australia started trialling inflight Wi-Fi around the same time Qantas managed to get it in the air, continuing an ongoing friendly competition.

Although Virgin founder Richard Branson recently hinted at a rivalry that wasn’t so friendly, claiming Qantas tried to “push Virgin off a cliff” in the domestic market.

Virgin has just upgraded its second Boeing 737 with its Gogo 2Ku technology to enable inflight Wi-Fi, according to ABT.

“But we’ll be doing the whole fleet, Airbus A330s and Boeing 777s, and we’ll have Wi-Fi on Asia and US routes soon,” Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti told ABT last week when the airline launched its inaugural flight from Melbourne to Hong Kong.

When pushed to reveal just how soon, Borghetti said, “Very soon”.

“It’s just a matter of scheduling – when you’ve got over 100 aeroplanes, you want to try and (upgrade) them when you are doing heavy maintenance.”

Virgin didn’t confirm whether the Wi-Fi service would remain free after the trial period, but ABT believes there will be two options for travellers: a Basic connection suitable for Web browsing, email and social media, and a High Speed pipeline for streaming videos like Netflix.

Per ABT, Virgin sent passengers a survey earlier this year, which suggested a Basic connection could cost between $8-14 per flight, and High Speed could cost somewhere in the $15-21 range per flight.

However, Virgin also allowed that “on some flights the price could be free, or the first 30 minutes could be free”, per ABT.

Qantas will apparently offer its own Wi-Fi service free for all passengers, focusing on local domestic services first before going internationally. It has plans to upgrade 10 Boeing 737s with NBN satellite tech by around September this year.

Wi-Fi on international flights wouldn’t be expected until after its 80 or so domestic Boeing 737s and A330 fleet is equipped, which per ABT is set to wrap up by late next year.

Meanwhile, Qantas is also working on other inflight perks, including passenger wellness, beating jetlag, and improving cabin environments with lighting and temperature. The airline signed on with Sydney Uni’s Charles Perkins Centre to transform the journey for passengers from pre-boarding to touchdown.

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