​Qantas partners with ViaSat to bring Wi-Fi to domestic flights

From early 2017, passengers will be able to check their emails, use social media, and stream live sports, movies, and TV shows on board any domestic Qantas flight.

Qantas has partnered with satellite communication service provider ViaSat to deliver free Wi-Fi service using the National Broadband Network (NBN) across its domestic fleets.

Under the deal, ViaSat will deliver internet connectivity between Qantas' aircrafts, and its Ka-band satellite and ground stations. This will mean passengers will be able to check their emails, use social media, and stream live sports, movies, and TV shows on board any domestic flight.

Qantas said it will begin trials of its Wi-Fi services in late 2016, with expectations that a full rollout to all domestic flights will take place in early 2017. The airline carrier also said it is examining options for high-speed Wi-Fi across its international and regional fleet.

The company added it plans to engage with "relevant regulators on the certification and approval for the new service".

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said the announcement comes as the company continues to make more customer-focused investments.

"Bringing high-speed on-board Wi-Fi to the Australian domestic market has been an ambition of ours for a long time. What we've been waiting for is the ability to deliver the same speeds in-flight that people expect on the ground -- and we now have access to the technology to make it happen," he said.

ViaSat's chairman and CEO Mark Dankberg said the company plans to deliver access speeds of up to 20 Mbps per passenger.

The announcement coincides with release of the company's half-year results for the six months ended December 31, 2015 on Tuesday. The group reported underlying profit after tax of AU$921 million, a year-on-year improvement on the AU$554 million from 1H15, and statutory profit after tax of AU$983 million. Revenue increased by 5 percent to AU$8.5 million.

Meanwhile, total unit costs improved by 7 percent compared with the first half of last year. Similarly, underlying expenses decreased by 2 percent to AU$7.4 million, where a reduction in the group's fuel cost was partially offset by higher depreciation and amortisation expenses.

Joyce claimed the underlying profit marked a record first-half performance, making the 2015 calendar-year results "the best in the national carrier's 95-year history".

The group also provided an update on its AU$2 billion transformation program, which was launched in early 2014. It said during the six months, AU$261 million in cost and revenue benefits were realised through the transformation initiative, with AU$1.36 billion in total benefits now realised since 2014. The company added that total transformation benefits in the full year are expected to reach AU$450 million.

Qantas said it invested in technology as one of the core principles of the transformation program. This included the adoption of predictive analytics in network recovery and flight planning; rebuilding the Qantas and Jetstar website and booking experiences; and improving the Qantas and Jetstar mobile-enabled booking, check-in, and disrupt management system.

As part of its Qantas Loyalty business, the company added that it continued to add capability to its data analytics and research unit, Red Planet, noting the latest "customer-centric, digitally-led project" pursued by Qantas Loyalty was Qantas Assure, announced in November.

Last May, the company announced under its transformation program it was going to place heavy focus on leveraging customer insight, including data sourced from 10.7 million frequent flyer members, as well as the over 2.5 million visits per week it receives on Qantas.com, and more than 3.7 million visits per week to its Jetstar website.

Joyce said that latest results reflect a "stronger, leaner, more agile Qantas", with expectations the company will continue its momentum to deliver the full AU$2 billion in benefits from its transformation program by the end of the 2017 financial year.

"Today's result -- and the initiatives we have announced for the future -- reflect a fit, forward-focused business. We have much more to do," he said.

"But we have taken another stride toward a strong, healthy, and sustainable Qantas for the long term."

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