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Airlines should ‘respond today’ to demand for in-flight broadband

Tuesday, October 6th 2015 by Ellen Branagh

Eight in 10 European airline passengers would use in-flight broadband if they could, a new survey has found.

The poll of more than 6,000 airline passengers also found that 67% of passengers would be willing to pay for the service, rising to 69% of 18-44-year-olds.

The 2015 In-Flight Connectivity Survey was carried out by mobile satellite communication firm Inmarsat and market research company GfK.

Carried out in August and September 2015, it polled more than 6,000 passengers who had taken a European flight in the past year and had carried at least one personal device such as a smartphone, tablet or laptop on board.

It found that 80% of passengers would use broadband on board the flight if given the opportunity, while more than three in five passengers said they needed in-flight connectivity.

The poll suggested that business-related demand was high, but that business travellers connected their devices for leisure as much as – or more than – leisure travellers.

Web browsing and email usage dominated in-flight demand across all age groups, while 18-24-year-olds were more likely to choose games (43%) and videos (37%).

The survey suggested that in-flight connectivity will influence people’s airline choice, with 69% of those surveyed choosing to fly with an airline that provides broadband, while 67% said they would feel more valued by one that made the service available.

Among those surveyed who said they wanted to get connected during flights, 67% said they would be willing to pay for the service.

Within this group, 63% of 45-64 year olds said they would be willing to pay, rising to 69% of 18-44 year olds.

'Unstoppable wave'

More than four in five passengers in the survey couldn’t imagine a future without being able to get online, predicting that all aircraft will offer in-flight wi-fi within the next five to 10 years.

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.”

Describing it as an “unstoppable wave”, Mr Mondale said the majority of survey respondents already cannot envisage a future without in-flight connectivity.

“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,” he added.

Cable.co.uk previously reported that air travellers would prefer not to make voice calls during flights – despite the relaxation of rules around the use of mobile phones during a flight.

The European Aviation Safety Authority allowed airlines to permit the making of calls and sending and receiving of texts on board, but both the International Airline Passenger Association and the Global Business Travel Association said their members opposed the idea of using mobile phones for calls during flights.

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