Nine months after activating a satellite-based internet service on their A380 fleet flying between Australia and the United States Qantas shut down the service this past weekend. Apparently usage was not sufficient to justify the costs of operating the systems. In a statement the airline indicated that the usage rate was less than 5 percent over the trial period. The company believes that this limited adoption is mostly attributed to the timing of the flights; passengers were more inclined to sleep on the overnights than pay for the internet connection.
Satellite coverage is limited over the Pacific Ocean and the systems are not cheap to install nor to operate on an ongoing basis. The kit weighs in at several hundred pounds. That means less cargo capacity and more fuel costs. If users aren’t buying the service then it is hard to justify the costs. Similar reports were heard in the early days of the gogo service rollouts. The US carriers soldiered on, however, continuing the deployments. Clearly Qantas feels the customer demand just isn’t there. With both United Airlines and Delta committed to adding comparable service on their aircraft flying to Australia it will be interesting to see if the competitive aspect of the market sees the service returning in the future.
And at the same time as Qantas is cutting the service Etihad has announced that by the end of 2014 they expect their entire fleet to have global connectivity. The announcement came as the carrier launched their first aircraft with "Wi-Fly" service. The Wi-Fly product is based on Panasonic’s satellite connectivity solution and is in service now on one of the carrier’s A330-200 aircraft. Etihad already has some other aircraft configured with the OnAir product they trialed previously. Etihad will be configuring their fleet with voice/data connectivity on all aircraft and augmenting that on their long-haul fleet with the wifi service as well. The carrier expects 10 aircraft to be configured with the Wi-Fly service by the end of 2013. Oh, and for first class passengers the in-flight internet service will be free.
Perhaps there is a finite number of tubes available out there on the internet and the convenient timing of these two announcements is more than just coincidence. Or there are vastly different ideas about what consumers want – and are willing to pay for – in-flight.
- JetBlue’s new in-flight Wifi: Fast and Free*
- Upgrades coming to United’s p.s. in-flight internet
- Gogo shoots for the stars, launches satellite-based solution
- Trans-Pacific in-flight wifi coming to Qantas
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