Qantas says it will begin offering internet wi-fi to passengers from “late February”, after the completion of trials on the first aircraft fitted with the technology.
Boeing 737-800 VH-XZB had a satellite antenna, multiple wireless access points in the cabin and other hardware installed in November 2016, and Qantas has since been flying the aircraft with the technology switched off for passengers as it conducts ground and inflight tests with its technology parter ViaSat.
Those tests were set to conclude before the end of February, Qantas said on Wednesday.
“Qantas will offer customers video and audio streaming when the service is switched on its first domestic aircraft in late February this year,” the airline said in a statement.
“The rest of the airline’s fleet of domestic Boeing 737 and Airbus A330 aircraft will follow from mid-2017 onwards.”
Qantas announced in February 2016 plans to equip its domestic fleet of Boeing 737-800s and Airbus A330s with internet wi-fi, with connectivity to be provided by ViaSat’s global satellite network and the National Broadband Network’s Sky Muster satellites.
The oneworld alliance member planned to provide the service free of charge. On Wednesday, Qantas said passengers would be able to stream television programs from Foxtel for free both during the flight and for the following three days.
Meanwhile, Netflix and Spotify would offer a 30-day free trial to passengers who subscribe to the service.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has said previously the satellites, which use the high capacity Ka-band, would deliver internet speeds 10 times faster than conventional on-board wi-fi.
The airline was also considering offering wi-fi on regional and international aircraft.
“Qantas is also currently in talks with suppliers to extend wi-fi services onto its international and regional (QantasLink) fleets to develop a product that can overcome a number of technical, performance and coverage challenges, including options for Wi-Fi over large stretches over water, which will deliver a quality service that meets the expectations of Qantas’s customers,” Qantas said.
Qantas is the first of the three largest airlines in Oceania to planning to offer internet wifi in 2017.
Air New Zealand announced its October its international and domestic jet fleet would be progressively equipped with wifi from 2017 utilising the Inmarsat new global GX satellite constellation. Trials were scheduled for the second half of 2017 on a new Airbus A321neo and refitted Boeing 777-300ER.
And Virgin Australia said in July 2016 it would offer internet connectivity on its 737, 777-300ER and A330 fleet from mid-2017. However, the carrier was yet to announce details about the technology it would use, its pricing model and any potential partners for the service.