Virgin Australia launches WiFi on Los Angeles flights

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Virgin Australia has flicked the WiFi switch on flights between Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Los Angeles, with passengers now able to stay connected above the clouds – for a price.

That price is $9 for one hour of inflight Internet access, although the $20 ‘flight pass’ which covers the entire 14-15 hour journey is undoubtedly better value.

Virgin says the connection speeds are suitable for “Web browsing, email, messaging and social media” but not streaming video, while voice calls on services such as Skype and FaceTime are blocked.

But it won’t be smooth surfing all the way to LA, with the airline advising travellers that the service “is currently impacted by satellite availability and typically has two services interruptions during the flight.”

“These interruptions are likely to occur at 4 and 1.5 hours prior to landing at LAX and may result in a 30-60 minute outage.”

Four of Virgin’s five Boeing 777-300ER jets which are dedicated to Australia-Los Angeles flights have already been outfitted with the Gogo satellite technology, with the fifth getting its upgrade this month.

The airline began trialling its trans-Pacific WiFi system in late 2017 as a free service as a public ‘beta test’ of the technology.

United Airlines, American Airlines and Virgin partner Delta Air Lines all offer WiFi on their Australia-US flights.

Qantas’ current focus remains on the rollout of domestic WiFi on its Boeing 737 workhorses, with the airline not expected to add WiFi to its international flights until 2019 at the earliest.

However, while Qantas’ domestic WiFi service is free, Virgin Australia now charges passengers for a high-speed connection on domestic flights, although slower connections will remain free of charge.

Virgin’s fast WiFi pricing is based on the length of the flight, with a baseline of $9 per flight on shorter routes such as Brisbane-Sydney and Sydney-Melbourne.

WiFi should also be available on Virgin’s Boeing 737 flights to and from New Zealand, Fiji and Bali in the coming months.

Virgin’s Airbus A330s – currently most often seen on east-west flights but increasingly being switched to new Asian routes, including Sydney and Melbourne to Hong Kong –  are slated to for their WiFi upgrade from late 2018 through to early 2020.

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