The ‘WiFi Wars’ rage on

17 August, 2017

As the WiFi wars rage on, it’s time to take another look at the latest developments and see who exactly is leading the way.

Fresh claims from Virgin Australia may have it edging out the competition in the international market, however both airlines operating domestically are expanding their trials on domestic routes to additional aircraft, and have released plans for fleet-wide rollouts.

In the past week Virgin Australia has revealed plans to install inflight WiFi across more than 90% of its fleet by 2H2019, following a successful trial on one Boeing 737 (VH-YIG). As previously reported by the Blue Swan daily, the service will be provided via partnership with Gogo and Optus Satellite. The plan includes making a start with other 737s, followed by 777s from Oct-2017, and A330s in 2019.

WiFi on international services is the differentiator

Virgin Australia foresaw an opportunity to edge in front of its rival Qantas by announcing plans to roll out the inflight WiFi on some of its international aircraft in Oct-2017, becoming the only Australian airline to offer WiFi internationally.

Virgin Australia Group CEO John Borghetti said: “We want to provide the world’s most rewarding travel experience and we know that enabling our guests to remain connected while flying is central to that. Therefore, we’re pleased to announce our rollout plans for inflight WiFi, which will see more than 90 per cent of Virgin Australia’s fleet fitted with this technology and becoming the only Australian airline to offer WiFi on international flights.”

Qantas is yet to confirm exactly when international services will be fitted with WiFi, instead ensuring guests that a full rollout onto Boeing 737s and A330s will be completed by late 2018. Qantas uses its A330s on numerous international services that will form part of this rollout.

Business model – someone has to pay somewhere…

When we first reported on the WiFi Wars we mentioned that Virgin Australia was yet to finalise its business model. With Qantas confirming immediately that once its service had been launched and implemented it would be free of charge, the question then remained what would Virgin do.

Well, we finally have our answer.

Virgin Australia Group CEO John Borghetti confirmed that the carrier would offer a base level of free WiFi to all guests on domestic flights. Unfortunately, no mention of price was given for international flights, and we expect those will incur a fee.

The results so far – post the three month trials

Virgin Australia: 77 per cent of guests report a high level of satisfaction with the inflight WiFi.

The trial found the following insights on passengers’ WiFi usage:

  • 49% checked email;
  • 43% checked social media;
  • 31% read the news;
  • 27% sent text messages;
  • 19% watched Netflix.

Qantas: 88% of customers were happy with their WiFi experience.

The trial found the following insights on passengers’ WiFi usage:

  • Up to 3500 passengers a week had the WiFi available to them;
  • An average of 32% of passengers chose to log on at some stage in the flight.
  • Passengers spent most of the time using email and browsing the web, in particular news sites. This usage was followed by social media, streaming video and music services, messaging services and then online shopping;
  • Reliability of the service has improved to above 98%;
  • Download speeds are now routinely above 12 megabits per second.