Virgin Australia to put inflight wi-fi on local, worldwide flights

Reuters

Virgin Australia have today got one up on Qantas, announcing their Boeing 777 fleet will be upgraded to include in-flight WiFi making them the first Aussie airline to offer WiFi internationally.

Virgin Australia plans to extend its inflight Internet service onto Boeing 777 flights to the US and Airbus A330 services to Hong Kong and China, following a roll-out of the WiFi service across its domestic fleet.

"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 global flights", he adds.

In-flight Wi-Fi will be delivered in partnership with connectivity company Gogo and satellite telecommunications provider Optus.

Australian flights will rely on a satellite from telco Optus, while worldwide services will tap into a seperate network of satellites through service provider Gogo.

Weaker demand for domestic flights has sent Virgin Australia to an annual loss but the airline says a recent improvement in conditions is set to continue.

The basic access domestically will be free, with an expected speed boost plan coming at a price.

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"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 worldwide flights", CEO John Borghetti said in a statement.

However the airline said underlying earnings in the final three months of the financial year improved from the same period a year earlier, and chief executive John Borghetti forecast a similar trend in the first three months of the current financial year.

It has claimed the crown in the inflight wi-fi race over Qantas, which is yet to launch a commercial product; Qantas has been trialling the technology since April.

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.

Virgin Australia said that until the end of the year customers on the Wi-Fi-enabled aircraft will be offers three months' free access to video-on-demand services Netflix and Stan.

That means once complete (by the end of 2018) passengers on Virgin Australia to the U.S. will have access to the internet on a pay per use basis using the Gogo Satellite WiFi connection.

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