Dec 3, 2012

Qantas silent on report that inflight internet axed

Qantas discovers a new way to drive customers away, by shutting down its inflight internet offering

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

What’s going to be one of the biggest differences between flying Emirates or Qantas apart from the fact that Qantas is handing over any pretense to serve London for those living outside of Sydney or Melbourne from the start of April if its partnership with the Dubai based airline is approved?

No internet connection! It seems unbelievable, but ever since this bombshell was dropped by Australian Business Traveller there has been no comment or confirmation from the airline.

Maybe it was the price, although that doesn’t make sense when you think about the disadvantage a business traveller flying the Pacific for 14 hours would have been exposed to by choosing not to keep up to date with the news and email, compared to those who arrive at the other end aware of whatever has been going on, and with their mail box cleared.

This writer used the ill-fated Connexion by Boeing system early this century when it was free on Singapore Airlines. More recently, for $US 5 per sector, it was used four times on an Emirates A380, twice on 14 hour sectors with incomplete satellite coverage, and twice on seven hour sectors with continuous availability.

That was just enough speed and data to write, edit, illustrate and moderate Plane Talking and have real time email discussions and monitor various news sites. There was from memory a $US 15 option as well, but this is freelance journalism in the 21st century around here, and $10 for something not actually needed just doesn’t compute.

The Emirates connections weren’t broadband, but they were acceptably fast, and certainly superior to the bad old days of dial up speed, or the earliest, paralysis inducing version of On Air that Cathay Pacific was at one stage trialling on its flights.

The point about in flight connectivity isn’t that it prevents you from resting. Knowing what is going on, and being able to clear all outstanding emails prior to arrival, means quite the opposite. You sleep well, and you arrive ready for whatever, because you don’t have an email and news overhang to try and deal with. You arrive up to speed, not behind the eight ball, especially if you turn up in one of those nice places where the smart phone isn’t smart when you turn it on while stuck on the motorway or in a train en route to your hotel, where the room isn’t ready, or your booking never existed, and the ATM with the SIM you were going to put into your USB modem for a few dollars on arrival was sold out, or no longer available.

Inflight internet is all about peace of mind, rather than trying to sleep for 10 hours wondering WTF is going on down there in the world.

But how much is it really used? That’s a good question which may not have been candidly answered by some carriers or in flight internet franchises. When my MacBook Pro was switched on before logging into the Emirates system it showed in the connection panel between 10 and 24 devices listed as a set of letters and numbers.  Maybe that was evidence that only a small number of passengers in what were full or nearly full 486 seat A380s were on line, or just switched on, at that stage. Maybe it only showed what the activity was for the nearest pico-cell to my seat? Maybe someone knows, but at the time, I was more interesting in watching the news and doing mail before getting some zeds, without a care in the world.

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3 thoughts on “Qantas silent on report that inflight internet axed

  1. Bird Kenneth

    It almost seems as though someone at QF has a copy of the ‘how to run a once great airline into the ground’ last used by AN and the then Australian Governments in the late 90s and early 2000s.

    I’m starting to wonder how much longer we’ll be seeing the ‘red rat’ emblazoned on the tails of aircraft flying around this country.

  2. patrick kilby

    If you read the article it was after a 9 month trial in which there were few takers. I suspect they will lose few (i.e not a game changer) and if they do they will bring it back again quickly.If the few really want it then they can flow the code share EK, just like the EK folk who want premium ecnomy can fly QF. I am glad as that means there will no skypers next to me. But Ben’s argument makes sense for busniess people, and that is catching up on ones emails.

  3. Rufus

    Has anyone looked at whether the few dollars they might charge for providing wifi comes anywhere near the actual cost of doing so? Satellite data communications are horribly expensive and the costs of those who are using it are doubtless being subsidised by the 90% of people on a flight who aren’t – and that’s before you take into account the capital costs and weight penalty for carrying the equipment.

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