Well well well, would you look at that, a British airline has finally rolled out Wifi across its fleet. And no, it’s not British Airways (BA). While BA have been making noises about testing Wifi on certain flights and certain routes, Virgin have stolen a march on them and become the first European carrier to offer Wifi connectivity across their entire fleet.
Pricing and limitations
The packages available vary across the different aircraft that Virgin operate. Rather strangely, the (newish) 787 Dreamliners are the only aircraft to not offer an unlimited pass.
(This may be down to the fact that the 787’s utilise Panasonic’s service whereas the other aircraft operate via Gogo’s network – just a theory).
Here are your choices:
(Boeing 787-9 ‘Dreamliner’)
WiFi light = £4.99 – which gives you 40MB of data,
WiFi max = £14.99 – which gives you 150MB of data.
(All other aircraft: A330, A340 and 747)
Messaging Pass = £2.99 for the entire flight. There’s no data cap, but this is just for messaging services such as WhatsApp and doesn’t support sending photos and videos.
WiFi light = £4.99 – offers an hour of continuous browsing.
WiFi max = £14.99 – means you can stay online for the entire flight, and there’s no data cap.
How it compares to (future) BA pricing
BA, on the other hand, plans to introduce two different pricing plans depending on the connection speed you require.
There are three types of pricing levels available: One hour, four hours or the entire flight.
Simply Connect – Offers basic connection, sufficient for checking social media, emails and simple browsing of the web.
- 1 hour = £4.99
- 4 hours = £10.99
- Entire flight = £14.99
Connect Plus – Much faster connection that will support streaming media.
- 1 hour = £7.99
- 4 hours = £17.99
- Entire flight = £23.99
Even a cursory glance should tell you that Virgin seems to be the much cheaper option.
On most Virgin planes, £14.99 will buy you an unlimited pass for the entire flight. The equivalent BA option is £23.99 – which is steep, to say the least!
How to pay
In due course, Virgin may get creative and allow you to use your Flying Club miles for Wifi credit. That wouldn’t be too dissimilar to the same way BA allows you to redeem your Avios for in-flight snacks and drinks on short-haul services.
However, for the time being, the following payment methods are accepted:
- Mastercard, Visa, Amex, JCB, Discovery, Diners Club and Paypal are accepted on 787 aircraft.
- Mastercard, Visa and Amex are accepted on A330, A340 and 747 aircraft.
Although there have been no details on this thus far, I am told that Virgin plans to explore the possibility of offering complimentary Wifi either to its frequent flyers or to premium cabin passengers. I’m not sure they have decided how they want to play this yet and may be waiting to see how strong the takeup is before making any further decisions on this.
I like the way Virgin have come out and launched this with a minimum of prior fanfare. Make no mistake, there will be people who will choose to fly Virgin because of the prospect of staying connected during long flights. I also wonder whether employees will be asked to switch flights/be expected to stay productive even when travelling on business.
Will you be considering Virgin over BA as a result of this news?