What’s that hump on this Qantas plane?
Over the past few weeks, engineers in Brisbane have been giving one Qantas Airbus A330 some extra TLC.
It's sporting a white hump on its back, approximately one kilometre of cabling in the ceiling and a Viasat antenna that connects it to the internet. It's the airline's first A330 with fast, free Wi-Fi, and for interested avgeeks, its rego is VH-EBB.
As part of the certification process, the aircraft is now undergoing a series of tests on the ground and in-flight before it's switched on for customers in the next few weeks. By the end of June, Wi-Fi will be on two domestic A330s and half of the 737 fleet.
By the end of this year, 75 per cent of the combined domestic 737 and A330 fleet of 80 aircraft will have Wi-Fi, with the remaining aircraft to be equipped during 2019.
Once they're all fitted - an estimated 15 million passengers a year will be able to stay connected in the air. (No phone calls or Facetime, though. Phew, we think).
So how is it done? While the fit-out of each aircraft takes an average of one week to complete, the airline has to time fit-out with the aircraft's scheduled service for maintenance to avoid disrupting the schedule.
Qantas says the vast majority of passengers connected to Wi-Fi are using it to browse the web, send emails and post on social media. Connection speeds are routinely up around 12 mbps, which is more than enough to stream the latest movies and TV shows.
Of those surfing the web in-flight, the airline has seen an increase in customers making travel bookings and shopping online. Bose Sound Cancelling headphones followed by Fitbits are the most purchased items in the air via the Qantas Store and customers have been busy booking flights to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Auckland.
What's the latest?
The airline has introduced digital games to the Wi-Fi portal including Crossword, Sudoku and Trivia, which have proven popular with customers who spend an average of 10 minutes playing each one.
New partners Audible and Apple Music are also on-board, giving customers on all flights free access to audiobooks and millions of songs.