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Vodafone launches in-flight data roaming offer

Vodafone is teaming up with airlines such as Emirates for a new travel data offer.

Vodafone is teaming up with airlines such as Emirates for a new travel data offer. Photo: TND/Getty/Emirates

After years of having the world at our fingertips, it can be a struggle to have that access forcefully cut off while flying, especially for long-haul international trips.

Various airlines offer in-flight wi-fi options, but they’re often limited to certain routes and regions, or come at an additional cost.

Now Vodafone has come through with what could be a game changer for some.

It is offering its Australian post-paid customers access to its regular plan while flying with select airlines.

Vodafone’s in-flight mobile roaming will cost $5 for 24 hours, and can be used while flying and on land.

“We have customers joining Vodafone every day who are sick of the great roaming rip-off,” Vodafone spokesman Kieren Cooney said.

“For a flat fee of only $5 per day, customers can use their device to stay in touch with loved ones, share their travel selfies, and even get some work done, all while cruising above the clouds.

“Best of all, customers won’t have to worry about any hidden costs or bill shock when they arrive home.”

Customers can use their plan’s normal inclusions – including unlimited standard talk and text, all their allocated max-speed data, and any included international call minutes – in more than 100 selected countries.

But don’t expect fast downloads or high-definition video streaming.

Vodafone said its in-flight data-roaming would have “3G-like” download and upload speeds.

Vodafone adding much-needed competition

Independent telecommunications analyst Paul Budde said Vodafone’s offer appeared to be an Australian first.

Although telcos’ international data roaming packages tend to be more expensive than international eSims, Budde said Vodafone’s move could provide some much-needed competition for airlines’ in-flight internet services.

“At the moment, it’s quite expensive to use in-flight services, so the more competition you get, the better it is,” he said.

“Particularly the use of data in planes needs to be addressed in a competitive way in order to make it more affordable than the prices that are usually charged by [airlines].”

Airlines where Vodafone’s offer applies are:

  • Emirates
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Etihad Airways
  • Lufthansa
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines.

Some already offer in-flight wi-fi services, but Vodafone customers could stand to make savings.

For example, Emirates’ wi-fi costs up to $US19.99 ($31) for a whole flight, price varying depending on the length of the journey.

Virgin Australia and Qantas were notable absentees from the list of Vodafone’s in-flight data roaming partners, which may be because both have big plans of their own for in-flight internet services.

On select Virgin Australia planes and routes, wi-fi is free for Velocity Platinum, Beyond Lounge members and business-class passengers. Economy passengers can take it up for a fee.

Virgin has plans to expand wi-fi availability across its routes, with a $110 million upgrade to the interior cabins of its existing Boeing 737 fleet to include in-flight wi-fi, in addition to in-seat power.

Qantas offers free wi-fi on all its domestic flights in Australia, as well as select international flights while flying over Australia.

It reportedly plans to launch free wi-fi on international flights outside of Australia in 2025.

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