Wednesday April 23, 2014

Status update: Qantas disconnects in-flight Wi-Fi

Qantas A380 passengers will no longer have access to slow and expensive in-flight Wi-Fi. (Rob Finlayson)

Qantas has disconnected in-flight Wi-Fi on its A380 fleet after a nine-month trial saw customers shy away from the service due to high costs and slow speeds.

The airline said in a statement that only about five per cent of passengers were using the service, which was offered at costs ranging from $12.90 to $39.

“Naturally, the costs associated with offering a reliable internet connection in-flight are significantly higher than on the ground, particularly when you are flying over vast expanses of ocean and can’t connect to ground towers,” Qantas said.

The airline rolled out the Wi-Fi trial in March across six A380s operating between Australia and Los Angeles. The Qantas flagship may have seemed the obvious choice for the test run, but as most of the airline’s A380s operate overnight, it may not have been the best one. As Qantas noted, most customers preferred to sleep.

Another problem was the service’s relatively slow speeds, with customers reporting it usable for email or other text-based sites but not much else — a pricey proposition given the costs.

The service, provided by OnAir using Immarsat’s SwiftBroadband and global satellite based connections, allowed passengers to connect to a wireless signal and purchase internet access much as they would at a hotel or other public hot-spot.

The trial came as Qantas and other airlines pursue a variety of new in-flight entertainment and connectivity options. Following what the airline described as a successful trial this year, Qantas is moving ahead with a roll out of its QStreaming IFE, which delivers wireless entertainment content to iPads.

Emirates and Singapore Airlines both continue to offer in-flight Wi-Fi on services to and from Australia.