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Virgin Australia launches Wi-Fi on international flights — for a fee

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VIRGIN Australia has become the first Australian carrier to offer Wi-Fi on international flights after it switched on the service on flights between Australia and Los Angeles.

From today, Virgin Australia passengers flying from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane to LAX can connect to in-flight Wi-Fi, with the technology now running on the airline’s Boeing 777 fleet.

By the end of next year, Virgin Australia aims to have Wi-Fi on its Boeing 737 fleet, which services its routes to Bali, New Zealand and Fiji, as well as its Airbus A330-200s, which fly from Sydney and Melbourne to Hong Kong.

The Wi-Fi does come with a couple of catches, however.

Firstly, unlike domestic flights, it’s not free. Passengers are charged $9 for one hour of Wi-Fi access, or a much more cost-effective $20 for a “flight pass” that covers them for the entire journey — which, between Melbourne and LA, is more than 14 hours.

Passengers will be restricted from voice calls on services such as Skype and FaceTime, mostly because it interferes with the flight experience of other passengers.

But the option of Wi-Fi may come as a relief to passengers who struggle with not being connected — a phenomenon dubbed “net-lag” — during long-haul flights.

Virgin Australia said a recent survey of its Australian passengers found 70 per cent felt frustrated when they couldn’t access the internet while flying, and 65 per cent felt overwhelmed by the volume of notifications, messages and emails on their phone when they landed.

Passengers surveyed said they would mostly use in-flight Wi-Fi on international flights to check social media and stream movies and TV shows.

“Most of us use our phones on a daily, if not hourly, basis, meaning it can be incredibly disruptive to have extended periods of time when you can’t connect with friends, family, colleagues, or what’s going on in the world,” Virgin Australia Airlines’ group executive Rob Sharp said.

“We’re proud to be the leader in providing Australians with greater in-flight connectivity on international flights.”

Virgin Australia tested its Wi-Fi technology on international flights in a trial late last year.

It now falls in line with United Airlines, American Airlines and its partner Delta Air Lines, which already offer Wi-Fi on flights between Australia and the US.

Qantas is not expected to introduce Wi-Fi to international flights until 2019, the Australian Business Traveller reports.

Its focus has been on expanding free and fast Wi-Fi on its domestic flights.

Qantas has just installed wireless internet on the first of its A330 aircraft, and it aims to have Wi-Fi on 75 per cent of its combined domestic Boeing 737 and A330 fleet by the end of 2018.

The rest will be equipped throughout 2019, the airline said.

Virgin Australia offers free in-flight Wi-Fi on domestic routes for standard connections and higher-speed connection at a rate of $9 per hour.

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