Inmarsat survey reveals sky-high demand for in-flight Wi-Fi

01 October 2015: A new 2015 In-Flight Connectivity Survey conducted by Inmarsat and market research company GfK, has revealed that there is a very strong demand for in-flight broadband services among Europe’s aviation passengers.

This demand is seen across all age groups and those travelling for either business or leisure.

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.

Survey highlights

  • 80% of those surveyed would use in-flight Wi-Fi if given the opportunity
  • 67% of passenger users across all age groups would be willing to pay for the service, rising to 69% of 18-44 year olds
  • More than 4 out of 5 see a future where internet connectivity is available on all aircraft
  • 67% of passengers would feel more valued by an airline that offers in-flight connectivity, and 69% would choose a carrier which provides the service

The survey was conducted during August and September, with responses from more than 6,000 airline 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 three out of five passengers reported that they need in-flight connectivity.

Staying connected

While the survey revealed that business-related demand was high, business travellers confirmed that they connect their devices for leisure purposes as much as, or even more than, leisure travellers. 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. 18-24 year olds were shown to be more likely to opt for games (43%) and video usage (37%); indicating a long-term trend towards more personalised in-flight entertainment delivered over Wi-Fi.

More valued

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.

Of those surveyed, 69% would choose to fly with an airline that provides on-board connectivity, while 67% 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.

Additional returns

In addition to more satisfied passengers, investing in in-flight connectivity can also deliver additional returns.

Of those respondents who indicated that they would connect their devices in-flight, some 67% would be willing to pay for the service. Within this group, 63% of 45-64 year olds said they would be willing to pay; a figure that rises to 69% among 18-44 year olds.

This result underlines the increasing reliance on connectivity and indicates that this level of demand is set to continue.

Turning point

83% of 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, commented: “In a highly competitive environment, where airlines are vying to stand out from the crowd, onboard connectivity is a powerful differentiator.

Passenger demand

“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.

Unstoppable wave

“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.”