Over one million passengers have used the free WiFi on Air New Zealand’s international fleet, the airline just recently passing the milestone. Unlimited free WiFi is now available on 23 aircraft that ply Air New Zealand’s international routes and all aircraft that fly outside New Zealand will be fitted with free WiFi by the end of 2020.
The rollout has taken just over two years
According to a report in Scoop, Air New Zealand hit the one million mark on a flight between Auckland and Perth. It has been a rapid evolution for the Kiwi airline that only began trialing inflight WiFi in late 2017.
At that time, Air New Zealand trialed inflight WiFi on a single Boeing 777-300 aircraft. According to Get Connected, the WiFi service was powered by Inmarsat’s GX Aviation and the in-cabin technology supplier was Panasonic Avionics.
Back then, Air New Zealand’s Chief Digital Officer, Avi Golan said;
“We’re launching inflight Wi-Fi as a trial initially in order to gather customer feedback and ensure it meets the needs of our customers before we roll it out across our international jet fleet.
“The trial will not only test the technical aspects of the service, but it will also gather feedback on pricing options. Going forward, customers will be able to choose to sign up for different timeframes and have the ability to pay in a variety of ways, including with Airpoints Dollars, as we look to offer a best in class connected inflight experience.”
As inflight WiFi was progressively rolled out across more of the airline’s international fleet, Air New Zealand was charging around USD$28 per flight segment – not so bad if you were heading over to the United States but a reasonably significant impost on a short hop across to Australia’s east coast.
Airline switched to complimentary within a year
But the pay to use model barely lasted a year. In December 2018, Air New Zealand offered a (southern) summer of free WiFi. At the time the technology was restricted to several Boeing 777-300ERs and Boeing 777-200ERs in its fleet. Like most things in life, the feedback undoubtedly suggested passengers preferred the gratis inflight WiFi model against the pay to use inflight WiFi model.
In March 2019, Air New Zealand said the WiFi would remain complimentary for all passengers across its WiFi-enabled aircraft. As of now, 23 Air New Zealand aircraft are WiFi-enabled. These aircraft include five Boeing 777-300s, six 777-200s and one 787-9, as well as all 11 A320 and A321 neo aircraft. That leaves three Boeing 777-300ERs, two Boeing 777-200ERs, and 13 Boeing 787-9s without WiFi. Air New Zealand says this will be rectified by the end of 2020.
In a statement, Air New Zealand’s Chief Marketing and Customer Officer Mike Tod said;
“We’re delighted with the uptake of our inflight Wi-Fi and have had great customer interest since its introduction with travelers from around the world finding it a fantastic way to be able to stay connected with their friends and family.”
A smart move by Air New Zealand
It’s a smart move by an airline that does a lot of long haul flying. It helps differentiate it from the pack too. Not a lot of airlines offer truly free inflight WiFi, especially for economy class passengers. Some airlines make a big deal out of doing so, but it’s 100MB and that lasts about that long. Some airlines that also specialize in long haul flying don’t offer any WiFi at all on these routes (looking at you Qantas).
Of course, bandwidth remains reasonably restricted on an aircraft, so streaming Netflix in HD might not be an option on NZ0002 to LAX, but it remains a terrific call on Air New Zealand’s part, allowing web browsing and communication while cruising above the Pacific.
As more aircraft are fitted with the technology, the airline should hit the two million mark in short order.