Cathay Pacific Adding Wifi On A350s

A few years back I was almost morally opposed to wifi on planes. In a way, planes were somewhere I could disconnect and recharge, since I’m otherwise basically connected to technology 24/7/365.

However, my impression of inflight wifi has shifted dramatically over the years. It has changed my life for domestic flying, as I can stay connected and work while flying, which greatly reduces the opportunity cost of moving around the country.

Meanwhile on international flights I’ve also come to love inflight internet. While I don’t necessarily work as efficiently on international flights as on domestic flights (since there’s more to “enjoy”), it is nice to have a wifi connection so I can at least make sure nothing exciting is going on in the world.

Etihad-Wifi

I absolutely love Cathay Pacific’s first class product, though it does drive me slightly bonkers that they don’t have onboard wifi. They’re otherwise a pretty cutting edge airline, so I find it puzzling that they don’t see the value in investing in inflight wifi.

Given how long flights from the US to Hong Kong are, I often end up pulling all nighters the night before I get on a Cathay Pacific flight, so that I can be as caught up as possible before getting on the flight. And while the flight itself might be relaxing, I do dread landing after being disconnected for an entire day.

Anyway, it looks like Cathay Pacific will finally trial inflight wifi. Cathay Pacific plans on installing wifi on their Airbus A350 aircraft, which they’ll be taking delivery of starting in 2016.

Via Airways News:

When the airline takes delivery of its new Airbus A350 aircraft in 2016, the 12 planes scheduled for next year will come equipped with inflight wifi capability. Details of the cost to passengers have not been finalized, but it is expected that premium cabin customers may have a free trial period to use it inflight.

That’s definitely exciting news. It is worth noting that Cathay Pacific will be taking delivery of A350-900s in 2016, which won’t feature a first class cabin, but instead will just have a three cabin configuration (business, premium economy, and economy). The A350s will apparently feature a refreshed business class cabin, though.

Cathay-Pacific-Business-Class

Cathay Pacific is still trying to decide on the cost of wifi, and whether they want to roll it out across the fleet:

Studies are in place to roll out inflight wifi across the rest of the fleet, but the airline confirms that there will be no inflight telephone capability permitted. The cost affixed to the wifi is an important consideration. When there is a charge, only eight percent of passengers on average use the service, but when it is free the usage rises to as much as 20 percent, according to the airline’s research.

I certainly hope they do charge. Bandwidth on planes is extremely limited, and while the prospect of offering it for free sounds nice in theory, in practice it makes it almost unusable. This is the problem on Emirates — they offer free wifi, but it’s so slow because so many people are using it.

I far prefer an airline which has a plan whereby you can purchase unlimited bandwidth for the entire flight.

Japan-Airlines-First-Class-17

That way there’s a “barrier” to entry, but it’s not as prohibitively expensive as airlines like Singapore on their A380s, where they charge per MB, and it can get outrageously expensive.

Singapore-Airlines-Inflight-Wifi-4

Bottom line

Cathay Pacific is definitely playing “catch up” here, though I’m excited to finally see them add inflight wifi. Here’s to hoping they add it to the rest of their fleet as well… ideally before they cut off first class awards to those booking through partner airline frequent flyer programs. 😉

How do you feel about international inflight wifi — do you prefer not even having the option, do you like it, or is it a necessity nowadays?

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)

Comments

  1. All nighters? Stop working so much. It is not good for you, and I’m quite sure it is not financially necessary. Life is short. Enjoy it more. Do you really want to die of a stree-related heart attack at 40? I can feel those stress hormones when I push myself too hard at work, and it is not good for me. CHILL!

  2. My understanding is that China restricts the use of wifi over its airspace, which for Cathay means that quite a lot of their flights will have dead wifi time even if their aircraft are equipped. They’d rather do without the hassle of explaining to disgruntled passengers “I paid for wifi why isn’t it working?!” on every flight about the Chinese restrictions.

  3. I certainly hope they do charge for every megabyte. Bandwidth on planes is extremely limited, and while the prospect of offering it for a flat rate sounds nice in theory, in practice it makes it almost unusable. The fewer people who can benefit from connectivity the better.

  4. @ Dax — Except in practice that’s NOT true… but nice try. 😉

    I’ve found the fastest wifi connections to be on airlines that charge based on the amount of time, and not the amount of data used.

  5. My experience on emirates was that the wifi was super slow. On JAL it was decent speeds to and from the US.

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