Demand for Wi-Fi is now sky-high for passengers choosing an airline in the UK

Inflight broadband is changing the airline industry and revolutionising passengers’ expectations of the onboard experience. That is the conclusion from the third annual global Inflight Connectivity Survey, published today by Inmarsat, a provider of global mobile satellite communications, in association with market research company GfK.

Overwhelmingly, passengers now expect the same levels of connectivity and access to online services whilst they are at 30,000 feet as they receive on the ground. As such, 71% of European passengers who have used inflight Wi-Fi say that it is now a necessity rather than a luxury. The majority (61%) of European passengers who have experienced high-quality inflight Wi-Fi rate it higher on their list of priorities than inflight entertainment when choosing an airline.

With airlines in every market racing to install or upgrade their Wi-Fi offering, passengers will have a choice to opt for an airline that offers high-quality broadband, and will soon turn their back on airlines not offering this. A third of British respondents (33%) who have used inflight Wi-Fi said they would stop using their preferred airline within the next year if it did not offer connectivity enabling them to stream or browse online without interruption.

The ability to connect to personal devices such as smartphones, laptops and tablets now sits within the top three considerations when choosing an airline, behind ticket price (53%) and flight slots (44%) for 40% of passengers who have used inflight Wi-Fi.

What’s more, the ability to remain online and work during a flight is greatly improving passenger experience, according to almost half (49%) of European business travellers who have previously used inflight Wi-Fi.

The survey reflects the responses of 9,000 airline passengers from 18 countries across Europe, the Middle East, Asia Pacific, and North and Latin America, and is the largest global passenger survey of its kind.

Leo Mondale, President of Inmarsat Aviation, said: “High-quality inflight Wi-Fi is changing the way people think about flying and how they spend their time in the air. Whether using the time to work, to connect with friends and family, or to pass time shopping or viewing entertainment, the availability of inflight broadband has become a major factor when choosing an airline.”

He continued: “The annual Inflight Connectivity Survey has become a barometer for passenger sentiment. This year’s survey reveals that 71% of European passengers who have tried inflight Wi-Fi believe that it’s a necessity and no longer a luxury. This will only increase as more people experience inflight connectivity. It is clear the opportunity that connectivity presents to airlines cannot be underestimated.”

UK survey highlights:

  • 36% of British passengers agree that inflight Wi-Fi takes the anxiety out of flying because they can stay in contact with people on the ground
  • 33% of British passengers who have tried inflight Wi-Fi said they would stop using their preferred airline within the next year if the Wi-Fi quality was poor
  • 74% of British passengers claim they would pay for inflight connectivity even on short haul leisure flights
  • 80% of British passengers would pay for inflight connectivity on medium haul flights, rising to 82% for long haul flights

Europe survey highlights:

  • European business flyers use Wi-Fi for both work and non-work reasons: 34% email, 33% browse the web, 28% use social networks, and 12% use business tools
  • European leisure flyers love the freedom to use their devices in the way they wish: 49% connect more than one device, and 65% of those travelling with children connect more than one device
  • 40% of satisfied inflight Wi-Fi users in Europe agreed that its availability significantly improved their leisure flight, rising to 49% on business flights
  • Almost half of European flyers who have experienced good quality inflight connectivity would recommend it to a friend (46%)
  • When connected, European passengers spend over a third of their flight (36%) using the inflight Wi-Fi, compared to the 11% they spend sleeping
  • 46% of European passengers would take advantage of the ability to purchase items from the plane and collect them on arrival at the airport
  • 30% of European respondents would choose to have inflight purchases delivered to their home

Inmarsat is transforming the global aviation industry by bringing complete connectivity to every aircraft and flight path in the world. It is the first and only provider with a complete next-generation High-Throughput Satellite (HTS) network spanning the world. Inmarsat is also the only aviation broadband provider capable of connecting the complete aircraft from cabin to cockpit. Inmarsat’s world-leading passenger solutions are complemented by its industry-standard certified safety and operations services. Passengers can browse the internet, stream videos, check social media and more during flights, with an on-board connectivity experience on par with broadband services available on the ground.

The European Aviation Network (EAN) is the first solution in the world to integrate connectivity from a satellite, operated by Inmarsat, and a complementary LTE-based ground network, operated by Deutsche Telekom. It allows European passengers to use their personal devices for internet browsing, video streaming, gaming and other online services, with unmatched high capacity, low-latency performance.

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine