Wednesday, 17 August 2016 08:05

No Wi-Fi. Wi-Fly?

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In-flight Wi-Fi is quickly becoming a deciding factor in which airline to choose as penetration reaches 50% of the world’s top airlines.

That’s according to Australia’s most prominent comparison site, Finder.com.au, and its tech expert Angus Kidman says Wi-Fi is quickly becoming the preferred feature ahead of meals and entertainment.

Of the carriers flying in and out of Australia, Etihad, Qatar, Singapore Airlines, Japan Airlines, Air Asia, Thai Airways, Vietnam Airlines, Garuda and Delta Air Lines are among those offering Wi-Fi. But at this time only 12% offer “free” use – which is still subject to conditions and limited in speed and data allowances.

Kidman says “For travellers looking to be connected, access to Wi-Fi could well be the deciding factor when choosing an airline. It unlocks Internet access for flyers and allows them to do things like stream music from Spotify, stay in the SnapChat or Instagram loop and catch up on emails.”

Only 12% offer free Wi-Fi, and often this is subject to specific caveats such as a minimum of frequent flyer points or sitting in first or business class.

"Competitive pricing and plans will be a driver," adds Kidman. “There’s no question price and value for money will play a big part in the uptake of the service. Qantas’ newly revealed free Wi-Fi plans is a massive win for travellers and will likely put pressure on Virgin to do the same.”

For paid options, Emirates offers the best deal with the first 10MB of data free, and then charges $1.47 for the next 500MB. The next most competitive deal is Mango Airlines offering $8.04 for 60MB and China Airlines with $9.11 for 24 hours and unlimited data.

At the top end you could be paying up to $444 for just 200MB with Aeroflot Russian Airlines while Oman Air charges over $2 per megabyte.

“With many more airlines projected to launch Wi-Fi shortly, travellers should look out for carriers offering free trial periods. If you’re not in luck with a free option, always make sure you read the fine print and choose the package which best suits your needs," says Kidman.

Airlines with “free” Wi-Fi (and conditions)

Rank Airline Cost for 200MB or 8 hours in A$ Details of package
1 Emirates A$1.47 US$1 for 500MB and free for the first 10MB
Available on A380 and select 777
2 Mango Airlines A$8.04 ZAR 29 (South African Rand) for 60MB
Available on 737-800
3 China Airlines A$9.11 TWD $650 (Taiwan Dollar) for 24 hours, no limit of data
Available on 777-300ER
4 Southwest Airlines A$10.72 US$8 per flight
5 Westjet Airlines A$16.40 CAD (Canadian Dollar) $13.99-$16.09 for the entire flight
Available on 737
6 Turkish Airlines A$20.09 US$14.99 for 24 hours
7 Air Berlin A$20.43 €13.90 for the entire flight and 90MB (available on medium-haul only)
Select aircraft
8 Delta Air Lines A$21.44 US$16 for a 24-hour pass
9 Alaska Airlines A$21.44 All day pass US$16 (uncapped data)
10 Aer Lingus A$21.98 €14.95 for full flight pass
Available on A330 aircraft

Airlines with “free” Wi-Fi (and conditions)
 

Airline Details
Emirates First 10MB free on all A380 and select 777
Etihad Free for first class passengers
China Southern Airlines CNY 258 (Chinese Yuan) worth of free Wi-Fi ($51.6 AUD)
In first and business class, however it’s first come best dressed with free Wi-Fi for the first 10 passengers per flight
Finnair Free Wi-Fi in business class, Finnair Gold and Platinum members, oneworld Sapphire and Emerald members
Garuda Airlines Free for first class passengers
Hong Kong Airlines Free on A330-200 from London to HK
Iceland Air For Saga Class passengers and Saga Gold members on up to two devices
Jetblue Airways Free for web surfing, email and social media on A321, A320 and and 50 per cent of E190
Norwegian Free on most flights within Europe, and between the US and Caribbean
Philippine Airlines First 30 minutes or 15MB free on A330 and 777 until 28th February 2017
Also free for Mabuhay members with more than one million miles get free Wi-Fi (up to 150MB)
Saudi Arabian Airlines Free for first and business class passengers
Swiss International Airlines 50MB free for first class passengers

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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