Virgin Australia begins installing wi-fi on Boeing 737-800 fleet, with 777s and A330s to follow

Virgin Australia Boeing 737-800 VH-YIG at Canberra Airport. Note the antenna fairing on the upper fuselage. (Canberra Airport)
Virgin Australia Boeing 737-800 VH-YIG at Canberra Airport. Note the antenna fairing on the upper fuselage. (Canberra Airport)

Virgin Australia says it is has commenced work equipping its Boeing 737-800 narrowbodies with inflight internet wi-fi.

The announcement on Thursday follows the start of a trial on board a single 737-800 VH-YIG that commenced at the end of April.

Under the rollout schedule, Virgin Australia said the “majority” of 737-800s would feature inflight internet wi-fi by the end of 2018.

Further, all five Boeing 777-300ERs, which currently operate between Australia and Los Angeles, would progressively have the necessary equipment for passengers to get online installed from October 2017. The 777 fleet installations were due for completion by the end of 2018.

Finally, the six Airbus A330-200s were slated to have inflight internet wi-fi by the second half of 2019.

Virgin Australia is using Ku-band Optus satellites for its wi-fi service via inflight internet provider Gogo’s “2Ku” dual-antenna technology (one for the forward link and one for the return link) which delivers simultaneous transmissions and faster connectivity compared to standard Ku-band connections.

Meanwhile, the airline said previously it would partner with Intelsat and SES for its other international flights.

During the trial, passengers on board VH-YIG have been able to get online for free, as well as have complimentary access to Netflix, Stan and Pandora streaming content.

Virgin Australia chief executive John Borghetti said the airline would continue to offer a basic service for no charge on domestic flights.

“We’re pleased to announce our rollout plans for inflight wi-fi today, which will see more than 90 per cent of Virgin Australia’s fleet fitted with this technology,” Borghetti said in a statement.

“Virgin Australia will offer a base level of free wi-fi to all of our guests on domestic flights and become the only Australian airline to offer wi-fi on international flights.”

Later, Borghetti told reporters during Virgin Australia’s 2016/17 full year results presentation more details on the pricing structure for both domestic and international services would be announced shortly.

“All we will say at this stage is that there will be a basic free offering for our guests domestically,” Borghetti said. “But then clearly, depending on what the guests want they can upgrade that to further access.”

“We are competitive and we will always meet the competitive position in any market whether it is price or anything else.”

In July, Qantas said it expected to have up to 10 aircraft equipped with onboard internet wi-fi by September.

The airline commenced its own wi-fi trial on 737-800 VH-XZB in April, with connectivity provided by ViaSat’s global satellite network and nbn’s Sky Muster satellites, which use the high capacity Ka-band.

Qantas flicked the switch on inflight internet wi-fi in April. (Qantas)
Qantas flicked the switch on inflight internet wi-fi in April. (Qantas)

Qantas has said previously its service would be free for all passengers, with those on board offered complimentary subscriptions to the likes of Foxtel, Stan, Netflix and Spotify.

The oneworld alliance member planned to roll out the technology on its fleet of domestic 737-800s and Airbus A330s, with about 80 aircraft to be fitted with a satellite antenna, multiple wireless access points in the cabin and other hardware by the end of 2018.

It was still working through plans for inflight internet wi-fi for its international services.

“We want to have a similar experience to domestic and satellite coverage is the issue. There are more satellites coming that will cover it,” Qantas chief executive Joyce explained in the May edition of Australian Aviation.

Qantas Boeing 737-800 VH-XZB having its internet hardware and satellite antenna installed. (Qantas)
Qantas Boeing 737-800 VH-XZB having its internet hardware and satellite antenna installed. (Qantas)

Comments

  1. Oskar James Clare says

    Wouldn’t they put wifi on the A330 sooner as they have started international flights to Hong Kong, seasonally fly them to Nadi and are looking at more China routes? This would really help them against Qantas.

  2. Mike says

    If satellite coverage (or lack thereof) is the reason for Qantas not yet going ahead with wifi on international flights, will Virgin Australia’s international flights actually have wifi connectivity all the way or will their “guests” experience annoying drop outs until more satellites are launched?