Travellers see inflight broadband as an essential freedom

Inmarsat, the British-based firm providing global mobile satellite communications technology, released a new global survey of 9,000 airline passengers in 18 countries revealing how inflight WiFi is changing the way people travel. The third annual Inflight Connectivity Survey was published by Inmarsat and market research company GfK, highlighting some intriguing new traveller behaviours.

Passengers no longer want inflight WiFi – they need it.

According to the survey, 60% of all passengers believe inflight WiFi is no longer a luxury, and instead consider it a necessity.

As high quality connectivity on board has become a reality, it also ushers in an upgrade in expectations. For passengers, what used to be a time cut off from the world can now much the same as if they were on the ground. For carriers, it means increased opportunities for revenue – and a crucial point of difference in an increasingly commoditised commercial aviation market.

Goodbye seatback screen

61% of passengers who have experienced good quality inflight connectivity now rate it higher on their list of priorities than inflight entertainment (IFE) when choosing a carrier. Why? Because they’re bringing their own devices on board and enjoying the freedom of utilising their own content and services.

So, it is no wonder that 45% of passengers who have experienced good quality inflight connectivity say they would rather pay for WiFi than use free IFE.

The new breed of air traveller

The survey identified that a new breed of air traveller is immerging who believes inflight connectivity should be the norm. One fifth of leisure travellers are connecting with more than one device, and this rises to more than two thirds when narrowed down to those travelling with children. Business travellers are not just taking advantage of inflight connectivity for obvious work reasons: 38% are using it to browse social networks. Overall, passengers are using inflight connectivity for a range of uses: 27% streaming short video clips, 23% using travel apps and 13% downloading large files.

Inmarsat Aviation President Leo Mondale says: “High-quality inflight WiFi 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. The annual Inflight Connectivity Survey has become a barometer for passenger sentiment revealed passengers believe that inflight WiFi is 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.”

What airlines get out of this

Apart from the obvious revenue gains (if the carrier chooses to charge travellers), additional ticket sales and targeted advertising, passenger satisfaction could easily be seen as benefit for the airline. 61% of respondents feel less anxious if they can stay in contact with people on the ground. The sense of wellbeing could then become associated with the airline brand itself.

Quality inflight WiFi is fast becoming an essential driver of loyalty too. 44% of the survey passengers said they would stop using their preferred airline if they only offered poor quality WiFi.