Qantas has revealed fresh details about its in-flight wireless internet rollout and it’s sounding pretty good. By early 2017, around 100 domestic aircraft will be outfitted with high-speed Wi-Fi under a partnership with global broadband services provider ViaSat. Best of all, the service will be completely free to all passengers. Hurrah!
For those who missed the original announcement back in February, Qantas is partnering with global broadband services provider ViaSat to deliver free superfast Wi-Fi to its domestic and international flights.
According to Qantas, the new service will feature speeds up to 10 times faster than conventional on-board Wi-Fi that’s capable of streaming movies, TV shows and live sports over the internet. In other words, your Netflix binge doesn’t have to stop just because you’re in the air.
In addition to online entertainment, Qantas will also be using its boosted connectivity to assist with reducing turbulence, aircraft maintenance, medical emergencies and connections. The last one should be particularly useful to business travellers. This means that when a flight is delayed, the airline can send passengers an updated itinerary inflight instead of waiting until they land, which should increase the odds of catching the connecting flight.
Deployment will initially be limited to a single Qantas Boeing 737 aircraft which will be retrofitted with a new modem and satellite antenna in late 2016. A full roll-out across Qantas Domestic’s fleet of A330s and B737s is planned from early 2017, with the aircraft to be fitted with modems and the advanced antenna that receives the satellite signal.
For frequent business travellers, this is pretty great news: it means you can stay connected with co-workers and clients — complete with video conferencing — while in the air. Plus, you can use your streaming service of choice instead of relying on movie downloads or Qantas’ in-flight entertainment.
For more information on the Wi-Fi rollout and its myriad benefits, here’s the full statement from Qantas:
Qantas is gearing up for the rollout of in-flight wifi on about 100 of our domestic aircraft. It will be free and it will be fast. And it’s fair to say we’re excited. As part of the work happening behind the scenes, our Flight Operations and Engineering teams are looking at how they can use inflight connectivity to improve aspects of your flight beyond Instagram and live sport. Here’s some examples:
Reducing turbulence: at the moment, pilots download the latest weather maps on their iPads just before takeoff. They also have on-board radar to help them track storms as well as getting any major updates via radio. Having internet in the cockpit takes this to the next level. Pilots can stream richer information on real-time weather conditions expected along the flight path. They can use this to dodge areas of turbulence and make better use of tailwinds to reduce flying time.
Real-time maintenance: modern aircraft generate huge amounts of data.. A single hour of flying can create several gigabytes of information from hundreds of sensors, particularly from the engines. Pilots are alerted to anything important, but a lot of other data can’t really be accessed until the aircraft is on the ground. By streaming this information back to base via
the internet, our engineers can closely monitor the technical performance of the aircraft in real-time and be ready if something needs attention. If they detect a replacement part is needed (like, a new fuel filter) they’ll get a head start on making sure it’s available when the aircraft lands.
Fewer medical diversions: from time to time, passengers fall ill on a flight. Our crew are trained in first aid and we often have the generous assistance of passengers who are medical professionals. But sometimes it’s hard to tell how serious a condition is, so we tend to err on the side of caution and land as soon as we can. These medical diversions, which average two or three a month across Qantas, can cause a lot of disruption to hundreds of people. It often turns out that we could have kept flying with no negative effect on the sick passenger (who also wants to get to their destination, particularly if it’s home). We’ve trialled once device which scans a patient’s heart condition if they are experiencing chest pains. The heart data is sent by wifi to a medical officer on the ground, providing a better diagnosis of the passenger which then informs whether we may need to divert to another airport or if the passenger is stable enough to be treated when we land at the original destination.
New connections: when flights are delayed, it causes problems for passengers who have an onward connection. We have a team inside our Integrated Operations Centre that looks after rebooking passengers when this happens, but you often can’t get this information until you land. With on-board wifi, we’re looking at sending passengers an updated itinerary inflight so that they have more certainty and can make any other arrangements ahead of time.