Qantas latest decision has been to ditch on board wifi after a six month trial period. In the period March through November, Qantas installed wifi on some of their A380s. The service was was offered for a fee on flights between Australia and London/Los Angeles. The response rate from passengers was just five per cent and Qantas is pulling the pin. Qantas did not say what percentage of passengers would need to use wifi to make it viable. The Wall Street Journal calculated last December that only three per cent of passengers on commercial flights with WiFi actually opt to pay for it so 5five per cent is not bad!
I believe the trial would definitely show under-utilisation because not many customers were expecting wifi on board. Not every aircraft had it. If people knew they would have access to wifi on a plane flight before travel, they would plan their journey to take advantage of it.
Qantas didn’t market or push the service in any particular way, in my experience, except for a mention over the PA and a card in each passenger’s seatback. There could have been much more promotion pre flight and encouragement to connect while in air. The charge seemed quite high for the amount of data one could download.
The decision to axe, does not allow for any future growth. Today, maybe only five per cent used the service. In 2013, it may have risen to 10 per cent and in 2014, 20 per cent? Increasingly wanting net connectivity during that time is becoming a reality of the connected world we live in. Ten years ago, I would not have looked for internet during a trip at all. Seven years ago, it was useful for email and an extra booking or two. Now it is essential.I fly multiple times a year on the MEL/SYD-LAX and return. My desire for that connectivity could change my on board net use from curiosity to compulsory.
Qantas competition is largely installing wifi and not doing so, may cause the carrier to fall behind. On the Europe via Middle East runs, Qatar Airlines is aggressively moving ahead with wifi. Etihad have promised all planes will have net access by end of 2014 and Emirates have it on all flights to and from Australia.In Asia, Air Asia, Malaysian and Singapore are rolling out wifi on all planes. Cathay are a little slower. At this stage, no airlines on the Pacific runs have wifi. Virgin Australia, however, are rolling out wifi on all Australian domestic services.I am not sure yet about their international 777s. United have yet to go beyond a single TV screen in coach class on their appalling Pacific service so wifi seems far off.
By ditching wifi on board, Qantas are showing themselves not to be a leader. Will people still choose them as their carrier?