Qantas have exactly one aircraft fitted with inflight Wi-Fi as they are currently testing the technology before rolling it out later this year. Waiting in the lounge I could see the aircraft at a gate and thought how great it would be to get on it.
When it neared boarding time I walked down to the gate and my luck was in – the aircraft would be operating my flight to Brisbane! At the gate two people were handing out a survey regarding the Wi-Fi and I agreed to complete one.
QF530 – Sydney to Brisbane (SYD-BNE)
19 April 2017
Boeing 737-838 – VH-XZB “Mudgee”
Seat: Business Class 1A
Departure: 14:00 Arrival: 15:30
Due to the late arrival of the operating crew, boarding was delayed about 10 minutes or so. Priority boarding and general boarding are called at exactly the same time which I found unusual.
Qantas now board half the aircraft from the rear stairs and half from the aerobridge in order to save time. It is quite effective. The Wi-Fi aircraft is appropriately noted as such by the door.
Announcements during boarding spoke about the Wi-Fi on board and how it would be available once the doors closed. I decided to get out my laptop so I could give it a proper test for this review.
Business Class Seating
Domestic business class on the Boeing 737 features three rows of two for a total of twelve seats. All seats feature in arm or seat back inflight entertainment screens as well as a foot rest.
Pre-departure drinks are served with the choice being cloudy apple juice or water with the juice being my choice. The new aircraft have the Boeing Sky Interior which is so much nicer than the old one, especially around the windows.
There is a video safety demonstration which presumably everyone can watch except those in the first row who are not allowed to get their screens out. It sounded good and the crew member nearby did the demonstration.
My laptop was in the seat pocket but this is a no-no on Qantas and the crew took it away and brought it back later. After this we pushed back and went to the active runway and into the air.
Flights after 2pm are classed as serving a refreshment as opposed to breakfast, lunch or dinner. As you can see, this is essentially a full meal. Though tasty, my crispy pork belly really was misnamed as it was not crispy. The rice and greens were perfectly cooked though, so that is good!
I found the sourdough bread to be quite hard around the crust so I restricted myself to just one slice. White chocolate for dessert is an interesting choice but no complaints from me. The Grant Burge sparkling wine was as good as the name (not great) – I would have preferred the Yarra Burn which I received on the return flight.
Wi-Fi Internet Fun!
Wireless Internet is provided by ViaSat who I have never heard of, in conjunction with Australia’s National Broadband Network (NBN) Sky Muster satellite service. Each seat pocket contains instructions on how to access the service.
Once the doors were closed, I gave the service a go but it would not connect. Once in the air, we were advised they had to do a system reset and it would be 10 minutes until it was available. I heard a technician say, “I have never seen this before, we’ll have to reset it.”
Logging on is relatively straight forward though having to type a URL into a browser is pretty stupid. One would expect that connecting to it would automatically open to the log on window. Also, the Wi-Fi has the same name as the service inside the terminal so you can’t tell where exactly you are connected to when the doors are closed on the ground.
Speed Comparison – Virgin Australia vs Qantas
Fellow blogger Zac from Points From The Pacific coincidentally happened to be travelling the same day on Virgin Australia’s Wi-Fi enabled aircraft. This means together we have a direct comparison on the same day of the competing airlines inflight Internet options.
Both of the above are from my Qantas flight. You can see in the second test 15 minutes later that the download speed has decreased, presumably as more people used the service. Virgin’s figures are better in ping and upload speed so head on over here to see them at Points From The Pacific.
Streaming Netflix Works Just Fine
Announcements kept mentioning a partnership with Netflix and Spotify and to download their apps before take-off. I have Netflix anyway so I decided to see how streaming is. Proof that it works just fine is in the short 20 second video I took below.
Browsing works just as well of course and I tried it with forums, e-mail, news and all sorts of things over a 10 minute period. At that point the system seemed to stop working and as we were well into the descent I packed my laptop into the overhead locker. The Internet was working again on my phone when I sat back down.
When I was leaving the aircraft, the people who handed out the survey mentioned they had never had as many technical issues with the system before. Despite these it all seemed to work fine though it remains to be seen how it will be with all the aircraft fitted and if the load can be handled.
Business class on Qantas domestic features a very good on board service with polished, professional and friendly crew. Seats are comfortable and spacious and the meals are substantial and very on trend.
Australia is many things but good at Internet isn’t one of them, illustrated by the fact it is only now coming into use inflight. The choice of ViaSat and the NBN over an established inflight provider like Gogo who Virgin use seems like a risk to me. Considering the direct comparison with Virgin shows they have better performance, I hope this is not a harbinger of future issues.
Either way, it is great to have inflight Wi-Fi as people demand constant connectivity nowadays. As long as VoIP is not enabled, I am all for it as it’s nice to browse away while travelling. Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.
Featured image by Kurt Ams / Qantas via Australian Aviation.