Aviation

Virgin one-ups Qantas with inflight Wi-Fi plan

Hannah Edensor

Not long after Qantas’ grand plans for inflight Wi-Fi hit a setback and their launch was cancelled, Virgin Australia has announced it’s got some Wi-Fi plans of its own.

Virgin has teamed up with inflight connectivity provider Gogo and satellite provider Optus to provide domestic and international passengers with inflight Wi-Fi.

Kicking off in April 2017, Virgin will get the ball rolling with a three-month customer testing period of Gogo’s 2Ku technology on a single Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

During this period, they’ll be gathering customer feedback, before rolling out a full installation of 2Ku across Virgin Australia’s fleet of Boeing 737-800, Airbus A330 and Boeing 777 aircrafts.

Qantas had plans to launch inflight Wi-Fi by the end of February before this week’s launch hit a snag in “stability issues”, slowing their schedule yet again.

Qantas claims, however, they’re still on track to roll out the service in mid-2017.

All flyers travelling on the Wi-Fi-enabled aircraft during the customer testing period will be able to enjoy the service free of charge. In another jab at Qantas and its recent partnerships with Netflix and Stan, guests will also be able to access streaming services Netflix, Stan and Pandora on their devices while in the air.

In addition, Virgin Australia is giving all guests who travel on the Wi-Fi-enabled aircraft three months’ access to Pandora Plus and Netflix on them. Guests who are new to Stan can also enjoy three months’ access included.

Qantas’ partnership gives passengers three days free access to Foxtel, Netflix users a free 30-day pass, a 30-day free trial of Spotify’s Premium service.

Both Netflix and Spotify will also require customers to sign-up to a subscription to access the free trial.

Virgin also just announced its new EconomyX seat product, which offers extra legroom, designated overhead baggage storage, Priority Boarding and domestic Priority Screening.

Virgin Australia’s entire fleet of 75 Boeing 737 aircraft is being reconfigured to provide extra legroom in the first three rows of the Economy cabin. The majority of the reconfiguration is due to be finished by the end of May. Economy X goes on sale today.

EconomyX-2

John Thomas, Group Executive Virgin Australia Airlines, said, “We are confident that by working with Gogo and Optus Satellite and using their proven technology we can deliver the best possible and most reliable connectivity and entertainment experience in the air.

“Virgin Australia guests will soon be able to stay connected with their family, friends and colleagues on board while also enjoying the fantastic entertainment offered by Netflix, Stan and Pandora.

“Inflight wi-fi also presents exciting opportunities for our team to deliver even more of the great customer service for which they are famous.

“The new connectivity solution will complement Virgin Australia’s popular onboard wireless inflight entertainment system, which revolutionised domestic and Trans-Tasman inflight entertainment when it was introduced in 2013.

“Feedback from our guests during the customer testing period will help us tailor our inflight wi-fi offering to their needs.”

Gogo already successfully provides inflight connectivity for a number of airlines including several committed to the 2Ku technology. Airlines include Aer Lingus, Aeromexico, Air Canada, Air France KLM, American Airlines, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, GOL, Iberia, Japan Transoceanic Air and Virgin Atlantic.

Michael Small, Gogo president and CEO, said, “2Ku delivers a ground-like performance to aircraft flying around the world today, including the ability to stream video. Importantly, 2Ku is built on an open architecture and can leverage new technology advancements in the future, which means the technology can provide passengers with a superior connectivity experience now and in the future.”

Virgin Australia will finalise its business model after considering customer feedback and the results of the testing period.

Virgin Australia and Gogo will work with relevant regulators to obtain approval for its inflight Wi-Fi.

 

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