Tomasz Zajda - stock.adobe.com

In-flight Wi-Fi availability drives passenger loyalty

A report published by Inmarsat appears to suggest that airlines which make on-board Wi-Fi more easily available are seeing more loyal customers as a result

In-flight Wi-Fi availability is emerging as a key factor in how airline passengers choose who to fly with when heading overseas for business or pleasure, according to a report produced for satellite network connectivity services supplier Inmarsat by researchers at Populus.

Inmarsat’s fourth annual Inflight connectivity survey polled passenger attitudes to on-board Wi-Fi services and found that just over two-thirds would be likely to rebook with another airline if a higher-quality service was on offer.

More than half described in-flight Wi-Fi as “crucial” and, on a global basis, passengers ranked it the fourth most important thing they consider when choosing an airline, behind reputation, free checked bags, and extra legroom.

“Wi-Fi is essential to daily life on the ground, and airline passengers see no reason why their time on a flight should be restricted or spent any differently,” said Philip Balaam, president of Inmarsat Aviation.

“Whether it’s used for sending that important work email, entertaining the children or even connecting with fellow passengers, staying online is becoming a crucial part of the in-flight experience for today’s airline passengers.”

Among groups more likely to use Wi-Fi in the sky – notably business travellers, generation Z and younger millennials (18 to 30-year-olds), and parents of young children who want to keep them quiet – the impact of service availability on loyalty and satisfaction was, unsurprisingly, more pronounced, with more than 90% in each demographic saying they would use such a service if offered.

Nervous flyers also showed up in the statistics, with 51% saying they would use Wi-Fi to keep in touch with people on the ground for reassurance, and distraction.

With demand for such services soaring, uptake was similarly high, with two-thirds choosing to use Wi-Fi when available. But it was also clear that demand is outstripping supply, as less than half of passengers flew on planes where it was offered.

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Passengers were also conscious of the need for higher-quality connectivity, with 54% saying they would rather have nothing at all than a dodgy connection.

The survey also shed some light on what amenities passengers considered an acceptable sacrifice to get on-board Wi-Fi. Back in 2016, a previous edition of the report found that 54% would choose the internet over an in-flight meal. Two years down the line, 53% said they would give up their in-flight alcoholic drink.

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