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Passenger demand for Wi-Fi is now sky-high when choosing an airline

60% of passengers believe inflight Wi-Fi is a necessity not a luxury

61% say quality inflight Wi-Fi is more important than onboard entertainment

45% would pay for inflight Wi-Fi rather than use free onboard entertainment

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 (LSE: ISAT.L), the world’s leading 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, 60% of all passengers say that inflight Wi-Fi is now a necessity rather than a luxury. The majority (61%) of global passengers who have experienced high-quality inflight Wi-Fi rate it higher on their list of priorities than inflight entertainment when choosing an airline.

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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. Nearly half of respondents (44%) 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 experienced high-quality Wi-Fi.

What’s more, the ability to remain online and work during a flight is greatly improving passenger experience, according to more than half (56%) of 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.”

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He continued: “The annual Inflight Connectivity Survey has become a barometer for passenger sentiment. This year’s survey reveals that 60% of passengers believe that inflight Wi-Fi 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.”

Global survey highlights

  • Two thirds (66%) of parents travelling with children said inflight Wi-Fi is a “life saver” when helping to keep children occupied during flights
  • Of passengers who have experienced high-quality inflight Wi-Fi:
    • 61% say it is more important to them than onboard entertainment
    • 45% would rather pay for Wi-Fi than use free onboard entertainment
  • 56% of passengers say a lack of reliable inflight Wi-Fi is a major cause of frustration with plane journeys
  • 61% agree that inflight Wi-Fi takes the anxiety out of flying because they can stay in contact with people on the ground
  • 77% of passengers would pay for inflight connectivity on short haul leisure flights, an increase from 64% in 2016. Those happiest to pay are passengers aged 25-34, parents travelling with children and passengers travelling in Asia Pacific and the United States
  • 89% of passengers are willing to pay for inflight connectivity on long haul leisure flights
  • Passengers have the highest expectations of connectivity in the Asia Pacific region, where 91% of passengers are willing to pay for Wi-Fi on a long haul flight
  • 52% of passengers would take advantage of the ability to purchase items during a flight and collect them upon arrival at the airport, providing huge opportunities for inflight e-commerce

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