Cathay Pacific will price the in-flight Internet on its Airbus A350 fleet at US$20 for the length of the flight or US$10 per hour when the next-generation jetliner takes to the skies in early June.
Vouchers will also be issued to selected travellers – a group expected to include top-tier members of the Marco Polo Club frequent flyer scheme - who'll have the option to redeem their voucher rather than enter their credit card details on the sign-up portal.
The pricing, contained in a technical bulletin issued to Cathay Pacific staff this week and seen by Australian Business Traveller, will prove compelling for confirmed long-haul A350 routes such as London's Gatwick Airport and Auckland, along with other likely starters such as Barcelona, Dusseldorf, Milan and Zurich.
Those international routes will be preceded by regional familiarization runs which will see the A350 shuttle from Hong Kong to Bangkok, Manila, Singapore and Taipei.
This will be the first time that in-flight Internet is offered on Cathay Pacific flights, with the Ku-band satellite kit being fitted across the entire A350 fleet.
Cathay Pacific plans to take delivery of twelve A350-900 jets across 2016, with ten more in 2017. Those will be followed by 26 of the larger and longer-range A350-1000s from 2018.
The A350s will feature an updated business class along with all-new premium economy and economy seats, although Cathay Pacific has decided against installing first class on the Airbus A350-1000, opting instead for a larger premium cabin featuring its new international business class seats.
Cathay Pacific will launch trials of in-flight Internet on its Airbus A350 fleet from early next year, but remains unconvinced on the technology and says that many of its top-tier frequent flyers value being disconnected during their flight.
"We've been looking at it for a number of years" admits Toby Smith, Cathay's General Manager of Product, "but I'm not yet reassured by the technology."
"We look at other airlines and we hear their passenger experiences, and there's a high number of drop-outs, it's slow and some airlines charge a lot of money for it, so we want to let the technology become a bit more mature."
"There hasn't been a big push from our passengers" Smith adds. "In fact a lot of what I hear from our Marco Polo members is ‘Please don't do it, it's the only place in the world where I’m free from the Internet'."
However, speaking at a Sydney press briefing today, Smith revealed that the airline would test the latest satellite Internet technology on its new Airbus A350s which will take to the sky in CX stripe from February next year.
"We're going to be doing some technology trials and pricing model trials on the A350, which will come with connectivity."
One problem which no amount of tech advances can fix will be the Chinese government's refusal to allow Internet connectivity in its airspace, which Smith describes as "one of the biggest hurdles for us."
"Clearly that doesn't stop us from switching it on between Sydney and Hong Kong, for example, but a vast portion of our flights spend flying time in Chinese airspace so you don't have a consistent user experience."