Of all the listable woes surrounding long distance travel (most of which are curable with a cocktail upon arrival), lack of access to the internet is one of the most commonly cited. While many enjoy the digital detox that inevitably comes included in the cost of a ticket, many others find it unbelievable that we can put a man on the moon, but we can’t leave a mean comment on YouTube 11,000 metres above sea level. The time between destinations, where one can experience feelings of “stress and FOMO (fear of missing out)” as a result of isolation from the digital world, now has a name : net-lag.
But it’s okay, because there’s an obvious solution.
In a first for an Australian airline, Virgin Australia today announced that they have rolled out in-flight WiFi on all international routes, with many of the fleet already fitted and functioning. All five of their Boeing 777 aircraft, as well as 10 Boeing 737 (though 75 percent will be completed before the end of the year) now have WiFi. The Airbus A330-200 aircraft in the fleet are due to be fitted with the technology early next year.
In-flight WiFi, like most technology, has made its way to Australia slightly later than the rest of the world, though only by a few years. Retrofitting an airplane with the technology takes over 2,000 hours of labour, and nearly a kilometre of cabling. It is also very expensive. Given that is an Australian invention to begin with, it’s great to see Virgin taking the initiative to upgrade their product to meet the ever-growing demands of the consumer.
“We know that the inability to keep up-to-date with the online world and stay in touch with friends is a real fear that’s only grown since the introduction of smartphones”, says Dr Andrew Campbell, Cyberpsychologist at The University of Sydney. “Like it or not, staying connected has become an essential part of life for most of us and certainly seems to be where we’re headed as a society.”
Group Executive of Virgin Australia Airlines, Rob Sharp added: “Most of us use our phones on a daily–if not hourly basis–meaning it can be incredibly disruptive to have extended periods of time when you can’t connect with friends, family, colleagues, or what’s going on in the world. We’re proud to be the leader in providing Australians with greater inflight connectivity on international flights.”
The decision came after extensive research by the brand, which is Australia’s second-largest airline. An overwhelming 71 percent of respondents to the market research said that they would be more productive on a flight if it had WiFi, and over 75 percent said that they would find the flight more enjoyable. Apart from the obvious advantages: staying in touch with friends, family and colleagues, the ability to stream films and TV shows, and check emails, it is also a huge win for live sports fans, who no longer have to step off the plane and into a social media cocoon until after they’ve seen the big game, lest the score be revealed.