The battle for our skies has been hot and connected over the last year with both Qantas and Virgin Australia commencing the roll-out of WiFi on their domestic services. That battle goes international this year with Virgin upgrading their Boeing 777 fleet to include WiFi Internet and we’ve taken to the skies to test it.
Currently in the testing phase, Virgin Australia engineers and in-flight connectivity specialists GoGo are monitoring usage and connectivity of the newly installed satellite services with passengers currently given free access to the service.
Just two of Virgin’s five 777’s have had the system installed, rego’s VH-VPE & VH-VOZ are currently in service after heavy maintenance where the satellite receivers were fitted.
In our testing, the service seemed as stable, reliable and fast as any other international service we’ve tried (United, Etihad to name two).
Notifications on the screen indicate we could be up for an $8.99 fee per hour, which is hefty, but is in-line with the newly updated Etihad pricing sadly, so it could be a sign of what’s to come.
Expect some limited free access, with the paid service kicking in after a short trial.
Speeds were not at all impressive, but if you ignore any speed test site and just use the service as intended the main thing you’ll notice is a latency delay – the satellite ping and initial transmission seems to take some time, but once you hit a path of connectivity to a site or your email server things seem as normal.
While streaming is not listed as a service, I was able to connect to Amazon Prime, though the speed and quality means you are way better off not risking that and doing your downloads before you board.
Social media, email and browsing news websites work great, and are the key uses of In-flight Wi-Fi around the world, including Australia.
Virgin Australia have beaten Qantas to the punch with international flight connectivity – Qantas say it could be a year before it’s on their road-map – that may be too long for some, while many more might be pleased to continue their blissful disconnection from society while in the air.
No word from Virgin Australia as to when the service will bump out of trial phase and go into service, but until then if you’re travelling the world flying Virgin Australia – keep an eye out for the purple WiFi connectivity card and open up your in-flight entertainment system to check for the promo code that will pop up on that screen if you’re on-board during a trial flight.