Tech fans will be loving the news that QANTAS is joining the growing number of airlines testing WiFi on international flights. But will this bring an end to the solace one is afforded during a long haul flight?
From February next year QANTAS will add WiFi to select flights from Melbourne and Sydney to Los Angeles for a trial period of six weeks. At first the trial will only be available to First and Business class passengers for free but will then be available to all for a yet to be disclosed sum of money.
Anyone with a smartphone, tablet or laptop will be able to connect their device but you won’t be able to make calls via Skype or any of that other fancy voice or video stuff. Still this opens up the ability to email and be part of messenger conversations – in other words, you now have the ability to be remotely connected to the office during your entire flight.
For some this will be a glorious thing. Can’t sleep? Got a pressing deadline? No problems, whip out that laptop and you have an office in the sky, minus the annoying phone calls. Now there are no excuses for not responding to that email, or not being able to hand in work.
But there is the problem. For business travellers, many of them enjoy the fact that for ten or so hours, they can just switch off, watch a movie, listen to some music and eat some horrible food. All of the EFTM crew have been on hectic business trips that usually involved two 12 hour days in a place 10-14 hours away from Sydney. You spend more time in the air then you do on the ground, and when you’re on the ground you don’t get to sit down. The only down time you get is the trip there and back before going straight back to work. But not anymore. Your aeroplane downtime is dead. Instead of taking random pictures of Francis asleep on the plane from Hong Kong back to Sydney, Broughall will now be forced to sit in his seat and actually do some work (how the stewards didn’t clock on that Broughall was taking pictures of another passenger sitting rows away from him while they slept is still a mystery).
We tested in-flight WiFi about two years ago in America when Virgin America just rolled it out. For short haul domestic (we flew from Los Angeles to Seattle, about two hours), it’s great. Those two hours are well spent working or catching up on emails, especially if you are just heading somewhere for the day. But if you’re changing time zones or travelling far, the airlines may be doing you a disservice by opening up these avenues to allow you (make you?) continue working.
Qantas hasn’t confirmed that it will be rolling out WiFi on all its A380 flights after the trial. It will merely test the waters and then respond to the feedback from flyers, but expect a roll out towards the end of the year. With other carriers in the throws of testing, when one blinks all will follow unless they want to get left behind.
If you’re heading away on holidays and want to burn some time on Facebook, it could be a good thing. Just don’t get tempted to check your work email.
For more detailed information on the systems, check out Australian Business Traveller.