As Qantas flies unplugged, Virgin Australia partner Etihad launches faster, cheaper inflight internet
With painful timing for the Qantas decision to end its A380 internet trial, Virgin Australia partner Etihad has launched what claims to be a genuinely high-speed sky internet product which will be available for much of its fleet from the end of this March, and across all of its single and twin aisle airliners by the end of 2014.
It has also priced it mid way between the cheapest offers on Emirates and the most costly deal that was available on some Qantas flights until last weekend.
Etihad Airways today launched its new “Etihad Wi-Fly” inflight Internet and mobile connectivity service, powered by the Panasonic Avionics Global Communications Suite.
The airline’s first aircraft equipped with Panasonic’s communications technology, an Airbus A330-200, took flight today for Brussels, offering high-speed broadband Internet connectivity as well as data and mobile phone services.
The A330-200 will be used for long-haul destinations across Etihad Airways’ network, such as Brisbane, Brussels, Dublin, Manchester, Munich, Frankfurt and Milan.
James Hogan, Etihad Airways President and Chief Executive Officer, said: “’Etihad Wi-Fly’ is a result of the 10-year, US$1 billion agreement we signed with Panasonic Avionics in November 2011. We continue to invest in our product and consider ways to offer our guests the most engaging and dynamic inflight entertainment options. The broadband Internet is high-speed, in line with what our guests would experience at home or at work, so we believe this will be hugely popular.
“By the end of Q1 2013, we will have 10 ‘Etihad Wi-Fly’-equipped aircraft, and I am pleased to announce that by the end of 2014, every single Etihad Airways aircraft will be equipped for inflight connectivity.”
All Etihad Airways narrow-body aircraft will be outfitted with data and mobile phone connectivity, while wide-body aircraft will be additionally equipped for broadband Internet services.
The “Wi-Fly” connectivity solution is offered to guests at a cost of US$13.95 for one hour or US$24.95 for 24 hours. The service will be complimentary for Etihad Airways’ Diamond First Class guests. Mobile telephone usage will be charged based on the international roaming rates of guests’ mobile network providers.
Etihad Airways also currently operates six connectivity-enabled aircraft under an agreement with OnAir: three Airbus A320s and three Airbus A330-300s.
* Qantas later today held out some hope that its decision not to proceed with the service it trialed on some trans Pacific A380s would be followed by a new offer.