Virgin Australia to begin inflight wi-fi trial in April

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Virgin Australia to begin inflight wi-fi trial in April

Puts pressure on Qantas.

Virgin Australia will trial in-flight wi-fi on a single 737-800 aircraft from next month, with plans to deploy the service across its domestic and international fleet if successful.

The airline said it will use Gogo’s 2ku aero antennas, while the service itself would be supplied by Optus Satellite for domestic and New Zealand services, and Intelsat and SES for other international flights.

Customers on the trial aircraft will be able to use wi-fi for free, for browsing and also streaming entertainment services including Netflix, Stan, and Pandora.

Gogo technology is already used by a range of other major airlines worldwide including Air Canada, KLM, American Airlines, British Airways and Iberia.

Virgin Australia Airlines group executive John Thomas said in a statement that he was confident its chosen partners would “deliver the best possible and most reliable connectivity and entertainment experience in the air.”

“Feedback from our guests during the customer testing period will help us tailor our inflight wi-fi offering to their needs,” Thomas said.

He said Virgin Australia would “finalise its business model after considering customer feedback and the results of the testing period.”

Virgin Australia and Gogo said they would work with “relevant regulators to obtain approval” for the inflight wi-fi service.

If all goes to plan, Virgin Australia’s fleet of Boeing 737-800, Airbus A330 and Boeing 777 aircraft will all be fitted with the Gogo equipment.

The trial and planned launch is likely to put extra pressure on rival Qantas, which was forced to postpone its own trials of inflight wi-fi this week due to “stability issues” with its chosen service.

Unlike Virgin, Qantas is the first customer of an inflight wi-fi service that uses ViaSat equipment and backs onto NBN Co’s Sky Muster satellite service; it is not yet a commercially-available product.

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