Telstra has enjoyed a monopoly on wireless Internet access in domestic Qantas Club locations since July 2003, scoring itself a nice little earner by forcing users of the lounges to pay its 20 cent per minute access rates (plus a 25 cent connection fee).
This month, however, Telstra has quietly begun offering the service for free within Qantas lounges. Users who connect to the network are now greeted with the following message: "You are eligible to use the Telstra Wireless Hotspot service if you are within the coverage area of one of Telstra's designated wireless hotspots in a Qantas Club Lounge. You do not have to pay for this service." Users who access the service elsewhere within Australian airports will still have to pay, however.
Neither Telstra or Qantas has issued a media statement about the changed arrangement, which brings Qantas in line with Virgin's rival Blue Room, which has offered free wireless access to its members since its launch in May last year. Free Internet connections are a common feature in many other airline lounges, representing a relatively cheap way of attracting business customers whose premium-rate air fares easily cover the associated costs.