[Satnews] A new survey of more than 6,000 airline passengers reveals the very strong demand for in-flight broadband services that exists among Europe’s aviation passengers—this demand is seen across all age groups and those travelling for either business or leisure.
The 2015 In-Flight Connectivity Survey was conducted by Inmarsat (LSE: ISAT.L) and market research company GfK. The survey also found that in-flight connectivity is likely to be a strong source of revenue for airlines, as well as a differentiator for carriers looking to stand out from the competition.
- 80 percent of those surveyed would use in-flight Wi-Fi if given the opportunity
- 67 percent of passenger users across all age groups would be willing to pay for the service, rising to 69 percent of 18 to 44 year olds
- More than four out of five see a future where Internet connectivity is available on all aircraft
- 67 percent of passengers would feel more valued by an airline that offers in-flight connectivity, and 69 percent would choose a carrier which provides the service
The survey was conducted during August and September 2015, with responses from more than 6,000 passengers who had taken a European flight in the past year and had carried at least one personal device (smartphone, tablet or laptop) with them onboard the aircraft.
The survey found that 80% of passengers would use broadband onboard if given the opportunity, driven by their growing reliance on personal device usage on the ground. More than 3 out of 5 passengers reported that they need in-flight connectivity. While the survey revealed that business-related demand was high, business travelers confirmed that they connect their devices for leisure purposes as much as, or even more than, leisure travelers. This trend further underlines the extent to which staying connected has become a fundamental aspect of everyday life.
Web browsing and email usage continue to dominate in-flight demand across all age groups—18 to 24 year olds were shown to be more likely to opt for games (43 percent) and video usage (37 percent); indicating a long-term trend towards more personalized in-flight entertainment delivered over Wi-Fi.
A key differentiator
The demand for in-flight connectivity was also shown to impact airline choice, and can be a differentiator for carriers which offer the service; making them a more attractive airline for passengers. 69 percent of those surveyed would choose to fly with an airline that provides on-board connectivity, while 67 percent would feel more valued by a carrier that makes the service available. This is especially the case with business travellers and other frequent flyers, whose choice of airline is more likely than average to be influenced by in-flight connectivity.
An opportunity airlines cannot afford to miss
In addition to more satisfied passengers, investing in in-flight connectivity can also deliver additional returns. Among those survey respondents who indicated that they would connect their devices in-flight, some 67 percent would be willing to pay for the service. Within this group, some 63 percent of 45-64 year olds said they would be willing to pay; a figure that rises to 69 percent among 18-44 year olds. This result underlines the increasing reliance on connectivity and indicates that this level of demand is set to continue.
The future of flying is connected
83 percent of the passengers included in the survey cannot envisage a future without on-board connectivity, agreeing that all aircraft will offer in-flight Wi-Fi connectivity within the next five to 10 years. The relatively short time frame and the significant proportion of passengers who see online access onboard as ‘a given’ reinforces that the industry is at a turning point in the adoption of universal in-flight connectivity.
Leo Mondale, President of Inmarsat Aviation, said, “In a highly competitive environment, where airlines are vying to stand out from the crowd, onboard connectivity is a powerful differentiator. Connected passengers are happier passengers, who not only feel more valued by their airline, but would go as far as opting for a carrier that provides in-flight Wi-Fi over one which doesn’t. Additionally, with a majority of passengers across all age groups willing to pay for onboard connectivity, this is an opportunity that the airline industry simply cannot afford to miss.
“Airlines invest millions in complex programmes such as cabin re-designs to maintain their competitive advantage, but there is one passenger demand they can meet today with a speedier return on investment: in-flight connectivity. This unstoppable wave is here to stay, and the overwhelming majority of survey respondents already cannot envisage a future without it. It is imperative that airlines look at how to respond to this demand today and look beyond a short-term answer, to a partner that can meet future demand. Inmarsat has the infrastructure, commitment and investment power to always deliver the best capacity – not only now, with our advanced Global Xpress and European Aviation Network solutions, but also in the future.”