Over the past few weeks, our engineers in Brisbane have been giving one Qantas Airbus A330 some extra TLC.
It’s sporting a white hump on its back, approximately one kilometre of cabling in the ceiling and a Viasat antenna that connects it to the internet. It’s our first A330 with fast, free Wi-Fi, and for avgeeks like us, its rego is VH-EBB.
As part of the certification process, the aircraft is now undergoing a series of tests on the ground and inflight before we switch it on for customers in the next few weeks. By the end of June, we’ll have Wi-Fi on two domestic A330s and half of the 737 fleet.
By the end of this year, 75 percent of the combined domestic 737 and A330 fleet of 80 aircraft will have Wi-Fi, with the remaining aircraft to be equipped during 2019. Once they’re all fitted – an estimated 15 million passengers a year will be able to stay connected in the air. (No phone calls or Facetime, though. That would be really annoying.)
While the fit-out of each aircraft takes on average one week to complete, we need to combine it with the time aircraft are already planned to be out of service for maintenance, to avoid disrupting our schedule.
On the up
The vast majority of passengers connected to Wi-Fi are using it to browse the web, send emails and post on social media. Connection speeds are routinely up around 12 mbps, which is more than enough to stream the latest movies and TV shows.
Of those surfing the web inflight, we’ve seen an increase in customers making travel bookings and shopping online. The online Qantas Store is getting a real workout. Bose Sound Cancelling headphones followed by Fitbits are the most purchased items in the air and customers have been busy booking flights to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Auckland.
What’s the latest?
We’ve introduced digital games to the Wi-Fi portal including Crossword, Sudoku and Trivia, which have proven popular with customers who spend an average of 10 minutes playing each one.
New partners Audible and Apple Music are also onboard, giving customers on all flights free access to audiobooks and millions of songs.
The modification to this A330 took our engineers 1900 hours to complete.