Despite in-air Wi-Fi being pretty much standard in other markets and some earlier promises, Qantas' efforts to date in offering onboard Internet have only resulted in a trial of streaming entertainment on a single plane. At the airline's half-yearly results announcement, CEO Alan Joyce said there are still no fixed dates for making onboard internet available, and hinted that it might never happen.
Picture by Mike Flokis/Getty Images
While Qantas had promised that on-board internet would be a feature when it rolled out the A380 back in 2008, that never happened. The most visible evidence of progress is its recent Q Streaming pilot to deliver , but that is only being tested on a single aircraft, and right now Wi-Fi is being used to stream entertainment, not as a net access option.
I asked Alan Joyce at the results briefing what progress was being made towards offering an actual internet service on domestic and international flights. First of all, he emphasised that testing for the process would be slow:
We always test these first of all to see if the technology works. In every environment you've got different complexities with technology. In Australia, with the big land mass we have, we have to see if there are areas where it wouldn't work. The Q streaming trial is to make sure we have that completely understood before we roll out more.
But Joyce also hinted that Qantas might decide not to invest in on-board internet:
We also want to test customer reaction to it . . . There are plenty of ways to spend money on our customers You have to spend the money, with limited funds, on the areas that matter.
While testing is important, I think it's clear from international markets that Wi-Fi can be made to work without driving customers nuts, and that people like to use it. In other words, it matters. Here's hoping that when the Q Streaming trial ends, we don't wait months for further progress.