Vietnam Airlines becomes first in the country to offer WiFi on flights

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In a landmark announcement for the nation of Vietnam, Vietnam Airlines will switch on WiFi connectivity on some of its flights from the 10th of October 2019. Four Airbus A350s are so far ready to connect, and the airline plans to roll out the facility to more A350s as well as its 787s in the coming months.

Vietnam Airlines A350
Vietnam Airlines will launch the nation’s first WiFi on four of its A350s. Photo: Airbus

Deputy General Director of Vietnam Airlines, Le Hong Ha, commented in a press release,

“[We are] looking forward to becoming a digital airline. Vietnam Airlines always strives to pioneer in the application of information technology to bring convenient flights for its customers. With the first in-flight WiFi service available in Vietnam, we hope to bring passengers a new and convenient experience when using the Internet during the flight.”

WiFi has been a long time in coming to Vietnam. The airline has been planning for around five years for this launch, but has struggled to obtain the necessary permissions from its authorities. The 10th October is a fitting launch date, as it is Vietnam’s capital city’s Liberation Day.

The Vietnam Airlines WiFi service

Although there has for the longest time been talk of Vietnam Airlines partnering with Inmarsat for GX Aviation Ka-band service, according to PaxEx Aero, this is not what’s being delivered here. At least not yet.

It seems that Vietnam Airlines has 14 A350s already equipped with SwiftBroadband, delivered via SITAONAIR, and has had for three years or so. However, without the right permissions, they have been left inactive. It seems that rather than upgrade all the planes to the GX system, these initial four aircraft have just had their L-band connection turned back on.

Passengers enjoying inflight connectivity with SITAONAIR on Singapore Airlines. Image: SITAONAIR .
It’s L-band slow-Fi for now. Photo: SITAONAIR .

This will be disappointing for passengers who are expecting high speed WiFi, because this is not what they’re going to get. However, when further aircraft are switched on, they should be offering the full GX Aviation high speed solution, delivered via SITAONAIR. When that will happen; who knows?

For now, the airline was quick to point out in press releases that the service would be best for messaging services (Viber, Whatsapp, Wechat etc). We would suggest that’s probably all it’s going to be good for. In fact, with caps of 25MB for $9.95 and 80MB for $29.95, nothing but the most basic of browsing and messaging will be possible.

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It will be interesting to see whether Vietnam Airlines changes its pricing plan when the other aircraft come online with the GX solution.

Launching on some A350s

According to the airline, WiFi will be available on some Airbus A350 aircraft from the 10th October onwards. The currently equipped A350s are numbered VN-A886 to VN-A889. The routes expected to have inflight WiFi connectivity include Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi to Shanghai, Hanoi to Osaka and Ho Chi Minh City to Osaka as well as Singapore.

In the coming weeks and months, Vietnam Airlines will look to roll out inflight WiFi on its other Airbus A350s as well as some of its Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

Vietnam Airlines WiFi
VN-A886 to A889 will be the first to offer inflight connectivity. Photo: Eric Salard via Flickr

While getting on a WiFi-equipped Vietnam Airlines flight is going to be a bit hit and miss, for the time being, passengers are advised that they will be told at check-in if their flight is connected. As well as this, aircraft will be fitted with identification panels at the exit doors, and will have instructions on connecting to WiFi in the seat pockets. Announcements will also be made over the intercom.

In a previous report, CEO Duong Tri Thanh said that more aircraft will be equipped during the period 2020 to 2024. The move is part of Vietnam Airline’s push to become a five star airline, and to transform itself into a carrier that is fit for the future.

Free WiFi trial

From the launch of the Vietnam Airlines WiFi on the 10th October through to the end of the year, the airline is offering all passengers 30 minutes of free WiFi access. This will provide a good opportunity for passengers to check out the new system, as well as for Vietnam Airlines to assess the capabilities of its investment.

From what we can tell, WiFi will not be available gate-to-gate. Rather, it will be switched on once the plane is at altitude and switched off again on the approach.

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