Virgin America ETOPS A320 with Satellite WiFi
In preparation for flights to Hawaii, Virgin America is doing some test flights with their new ETOPS (Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards) Certified planes. According to the flight attendant, there are 2 planes in rotation on random routes since a few few weeks ago. I was onboard VX950 from SFO to SAN this past weekend and was lucky enough to board the new plane with tail N281VA. The plane’s nickname is Pineapple Express and featured Netflix’s House of Cards branding. #NetflixOnboard. Virgin America had to create new safety cards featuring life rafts for the ETOPS planes which is required for all flights flying over water for extended periods of time. This is a huge step towards launching service to Hawaii!
The new plane featured Red Beta. It utilizes an Android based computer to power the IFE (Inflight Entertainment) screen. It’s much faster and refined compared to the Red which the rest of the planes have been using since 2007. The flight tracker is no longer using Google Maps but rather a 2D map application. A major upgrade in my opinion! Also, multi-touch is a nice new feature on the new Panasonic HD screens.
When streaming Netflix, it requires a fast internet connection and is currently limited on GoGo’s Inflight WiFi. Virgin America introduced ViaSat’s Satellite WiFi in order to fix this issue. It now offers up to ~70Mbps to each plane. During my flight, I did experience they throttle the connection per device to ~12Mbps down and ~0.5Mbps up. This is plenty to stream videos. My VPN (PPTP) connection didn’t work during the flight which I hope is fixed once they roll it out formally because it works fine with GoGo. You can stream Netflix for free until March 2016. The internet did cut out on my return flight of VX953 on N281VA but I’m sure it’s part of the testing of the new plane.
I’m excited to know that all Hawaii flights on Virgin America will feature Satellite WiFi for the entire flight which is a 1st for any carrier on those routes!