Qatar Airways Inflight Wifi Improvements Coming

Inflight wifi is an amenity which has become progressively more important to me over the years, to the point that it largely factors into which airline I fly (particularly on weekdays, when I hate being disconnected). Among the “big three” Gulf carriers, Emirates and Etihad have definitely been leading the way when it comes to inflight wifi. Both airlines offer wifi throughout a vast majority of their longhaul fleet:

  • Emirates wifi is close to being free, which is both a blessing and a curse — it’s great to get free wifi, but it’s also really slow due to the amount of people using it
  • Etihad typically charges ~$20 for unlimited data for 24 hours, and I find the speeds to be excellent; I think they have the best inflight wifi offering of any airline

Etihad-Wifi
My office in the sky on Etihad Airways

Qatar Airways is sort of lagging the competition, however:

  • Qatar Airways doesn’t have wifi on their 777s, which are the backbone of their fleet, and also don’t offer wifi on most of their A320s, A330s, and A340s
  • Qatar Airways uses OnAir for wifi on their other planes — like the A350, A380, and 787 — though on some planes they charge based on usage rather than duration of flight, which can get really costly
  • In some instances Qatar Airways gives premium passengers wifi vouchers, though not with any consistency, and most of the time they were only valid for a few hours

Qatar-Airways-A350-Business-Class-28
Qatar Airways wifi voucher

The good news is that Qatar Airways is changing their wifi provider later this week, and they’ll be charging a flat fee based on the amount of time you use it, rather than based on usage. Via Doha News:

Qatar Airways has said it will overhaul its in-flight Wifi service later this week, using technology from local telecom firm Ooredoo that will be added to all aircraft in the carrier’s fleet by next year.

Under the new service, passengers will be able to watch videos – as well as check email and surf the Internet – for free for the first 15 minutes.

After that, customers will pay $5 for the first hour and $10 for the next three hours. Alternatively, customers can pay $20 for unlimited Wifi for the entire flight, regardless of its duration.

Starting on National Day, Dec. 18, the service will be activated on 65 planes in the carrier’s fleet, including all its A319s, A350s, A380s and Boeing 787s, as well as some of its A320 and A330 aircraft.

It will be expanded to all of Qatar’s Airways’ 173 planes by June 2016, officials said, adding that the service can be accessed using laptops, tablets, smartphones and other Wifi enabled devices.

Qatar-Airways-787-Business-2
Qatar Airways 787 business class

I far prefer this pricing model:

  • 15 minutes of free wifi
  • $5 for the first hour of wifi
  • $10 for the next three hours of wifi
  • $20 for wifi for the duration of the flight

Perhaps the more exciting news is that Qatar’s entire fleet will supposedly be getting wifi by June 2016, including their 777s. That seems a bit optimistic to me, and I don’t always take what Qatar Airways says at face value (to say the least). But their intent to install wifi on the 777s is great news.

I also love the quote they have from Qatar Airways’ CEO, Akbar Al Baker:

“I’m known to be very stingy, so we cannot make everything (for) free all the time,” Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker joked at a press conference earlier today to announce Ooredoo as Qatar Airways’ exclusive Wifi provider for the next three years.

Hah!

Krug
At least Al Baker is generous in serving business class passengers Krug in the Al Mourjan Lounge

Bottom line

I’m excited to see Qatar Airways improve the wifi situation throughout their fleet. Not only will wifi become less expensive on planes which already have wifi, but over the coming months it looks like it will also be expanded to the rest of their fleet. This is great news for those in the US, given that Qatar Airways primarily flies 777s here.

Qatar-Airways-777
Qatar Airways 777

Here’s to hoping the new provider also comes with better wifi speeds.

How important is wifi to you on international flights?

Comments

  1. @Alpha, I couldn’t figure that out on JetBlue. I didn’t pay for wifi and my VPN worked just fine.

    I think $20-30 is about right for wifi on a flight. Not too much, but enough to make some people think twice and not clog the whole system.

  2. I flew with Qatar recently in September and quite quickly worked out that you could just keep signing up for their free 15 minutes of wifi with random names and emails as you didn’t need to activate it through the email address you gave (this might have changed?).

    So yes, slightly painful, but had free wifi the entire time I wanted it.

    Pro tip right there… 🙂

  3. I wonder what the price difference for the airline is “Free-wifi” vs. a bottle of Krüg, totally tax-free ?
    For instance spirits in HKG are cheaper than wine – downtown market…..

  4. Has Qatar airways added wifi to all their planes as they have said by June ? I’m flying end of September on Qatar from Johannesburg to Istanbul and want to know if the 777-300er has wifi

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