Both Qantas and Virgin Australia are installing in-flight internet on Australian domestic and international aircraft and both have confirmed it will be available in 2017, but one big question remains.
Will passengers be allowed to use the internet to chatter on Skype, WhatsApp and similar voice-based systems? Unless airlines ban or restrict that aspect, flying could become intolerable for anyone who simply wants to work, read or relax.
Virgin Australia confirmed its plans to introduce in-flight internet last week. Qantas had already announced similar plans.
The development may revolutionise the way airline passengers spend their time. For work or pleasure, online connection is a big plus, particularly if you happen to be sitting in a seat with a power connection.
Details have yet to emerge – one of the most important being pricing. If the internet is priced too steeply, people will just stick to videos or reading, particularly on shorter flights.
Virgin has confirmed it will make internet available on its B737-800, B777 and A330 fleet, with all work completed by mid 2017.
Qantas will launch in-flight Wi-Fi during 2017 through a partnership with ViaSat. Qantas says its new service will feature speeds “up to 10 times faster than conventional on-board Wi-Fi, giving customers the ability to stream movies, TV shows, the latest news bulletins and live sports on domestic flights via the internet”.
Qantas in-flight trials are expected to begin with a single Qantas B737 aircraft late this year, retrofitted with equipment to enable high-speed Wi-Fi. A full roll-out across Qantas Domestic’s fleet of A330s and B737s is planned from early 2017.
Written by Peter Needham