Free WiFi? Air New Zealand and Inmarsat have found the sweet spot

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Air New Zealand has reached a milestone in inflight connectivity, as the one-millionth passenger has connected to its onboard WiFi. Not only have a million people used WiFi onboard ANZ flights, but none of them have paid a cent for the privilege. Here’s how ANZ, powered by Inmarsat, has cracked the free WiFi nut.

Air New Zealand
Air New Zealand is celebrating its one millionth passenger connection. Photo: Airbus

A million free WiFi sessions

While other airlines struggle to make the free WiFi model work, Air New Zealand has been bringing its passengers a free browsing experience since 2018. Powered by Inmarsat’s GX Aviation, the service last year reached the milestone of one million passenger broadband sessions, demonstrating the popularity and capabilities of the on board facility.

As well as reaching the one-millionth passenger milestone, Air New Zealand reported an increase in uptake over the course of the year. As such, December was the carrier’s busiest month, with more than 122,000 customers connecting on board. The previous highest month was July 2019 when it logged 103,000 sessions.

ANZ wifi
122,000 passengers logged on in December alone. Photo: Air New Zealand

Chris Rogerson, Inmarsat Aviation’s Regional Vice President for Asia Pacific, commented in a statement,

“Air New Zealand is one of the airline industry’s biggest advocates of free inflight broadband. Whenever and wherever passengers fly with them, they will be offered unrestricted internet access at zero cost. It is a prime example of how this leading airline always seeks to delight and surprise their passengers.

“The fact that over one million sessions have been enjoyed by passengers since the free-of charge model was introduced in December 2018 is testament to incredibly strong demand for high-speed, reliable and easy to access inflight broadband. It also underpins Inmarsat’s leadership in providing ‘gold standard’ aviation connectivity that empowers our airline customers to offer a world-class experience that meets the demands of today’s passengers.”

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Get Connected has merged with Simple Flying.

To read the latest Get Connected content, please visit our new home by clicking here.

 

So far, ANZ has installed WiFi capabilities on most of its Boeing 777-300s and 777-200s, with the remainder of the fleet being kitted out this year. The new A321neos and A320neos are arriving already equipped, and the airline has said it plans to begin retrofits on its Boeing 787s later this year.

It’s free, but is it good?

On paper, the ANZ WiFi is a very attractive offer. This is not some instant message free WiFi, or a strictly limited data offer; this is the full works, unlimited data and unlimited use, for free, forever. Well, that’s not strictly true, as ANZ website states that it will take measures to control data heavy applications.

Specifically, the website says, “We control the internet speed and block certain data-heavy services, like large file downloads and cloud services. That way everyone can get a good experience.”

ANZ free Wifi
Air New Zealand uses Inmarsat’s GX network. Photo: Air New Zealand

When the free WiFi launched, it actively blocked Netflix from playing. Instead, passengers were asked to use YouTube on a low-resolution setting. Whether this is still the case isn’t clear, but judging by the TripAdvisor reviews, whatever ANZ is doing it’s working very well indeed.

It’s what (one would hope) all airlines aspire to provide. And yet, Delta’s CEO, Ed Bastian, has said repeatedly that the technology is just not there to provide a good customer experience, which is why he’s not happy to take the plunge yet.

Bastian has said he’s worried about the connection becoming slow if everyone logs on at once. ANZ seem to have found a way of dealing with this, and it seems to be working. With any luck, ANZ and Inmarsat are setting a benchmark to which other airlines can aspire.

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