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More airline passengers want decent broadband than an in-flight meal

Tuesday, May 24th 2016 by Ellen Branagh

More than nine in 10 airline passengers want in-flight broadband – with more than half putting it higher on the list of priorities than an in-flight meal.

A survey of airline customers found that 92% would like to access on-board connectivity, while 54% would prefer it over in-flight meals.

The In-Flight Connectivity Survey, carried out by satellite operator Inmarsat and market research company GfK, polled more than 9,000 people from 27 countries.

It found that 83% of passengers preferred airlines that offer in-flight broadband, while 78% said they expect to see on-board connectivity replace in-flight entertainment systems in the next five to 10 years.

34% of passengers bring three mobile devices on board and are wiling to pay to connect their phone, tablet or laptop to in-flight broadband.

The data used responses from more than 9,000 passengers in Europe, Asia, Australasia and Central and South America who had taken a short, medium or long haul flight in the past year and carried at least one personal device on board the plane.

Most passengers would prefer to connect their smartphones, tablets or laptops to the internet during their journey, it found, as opposed to eating a meal, accessing in-flight entertainment or shopping duty free.

Reliability is the biggest concern for airline passengers when it comes to broadband, with 75% of respondents picking it as the top priority compared to 19% for whom speed was most important.

Among those who have had the opportunity to use in-flight broadband, one in 10 were unable to connect their devices to the aircraft’s network.

With quality high on the list of priorities for passengers when deciding whether to use in-flight broadband, 60% of passengers said they were less likely to connect if the service is poor, but would take advantage of a reliable service that doesn’t drop out.

'Essential ingredient'

According to the survey, the demand for connectivity isn’t just restricted to long-haul travel, with passengers willing to pay to log in whether they are flying short distances (64%), medium haul (68%) or long haul (69%).

The amount people are willing to pay varies from region to region, as does what they want to use broadband for.

In Europe, 69% of passengers are prepared to pay, and are more likely to use on board connectivity to keep in touch with friends and family while they travel.

Passengers in Asia Pacific, where 67% are willing to pay, mainly seek access to travel websites and apps, while people in Latin America, where 64% are willing to pay, are usually looking to stream video.

Leo Mondale, president of Inmarsat Aviation, said: “Demand for broadband in the sky has reached such unprecedented levels around the world that airlines need to meet passenger expectations or risk losing out to their competitors.

“Our survey clearly demonstrates that passengers demand a highly reliable service. Quality is the essential ingredient that determines whether or not passengers choose to go online during flights.

“Airlines are therefore under pressure to select the right partner to support them in delivering a reliable and cost effective service."

Inmarsat recently unveiled an aviation broadband roadmap to ensure that rising demand for fast, reliable and global in-flight connectivity is met for the next five years and beyond.

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