A global survey of airline customers reveals that passengers now not only expect broadband services to be offered as standard during flights, but more than half would prefer in-flight connectivity to in-flight meals.
The In-Flight Connectivity Survey was conducted by global mobile satellite communications services provider Inmarsat and market research company GfK between August 2015 and March 2016. Responses were gathered 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 aircraft.
Passenger reliance on remaining online using their smartphones, tablets and other devices now means that most travellers (83 per cent) will select an airline based on whether they can remain logged into social networks, video streaming sites, apps and emails throughout their journeys. In addition, passengers are willing to pay to receive the best possible service.
The survey also found that most passengers would prefer to connect their smartphones, tablets or laptops to the Internet during their journey as opposed to eating a meal, accessing in-flight entertainment or experiencing duty free shopping.
In terms of deciding whether to connect to broadband on board an aircraft, of upmost concern to passengers is reliability, as identified by 75 per cent of respondents, over speed which was a priority for just 19 per cent. Among those who have had the opportunity to use in-flight broadband, one in ten were unable to connect their devices to the aircraft’s network.
Quality is therefore the essential factor for passengers in determining whether to use in-flight broadband. 60 per cent of passengers are less inclined to connect if the service is poor, but a reliable service that does not disconnect at regular intervals can expect to be well used.
Among the survey highlights:
The proliferation of electronic portable devices means that passengers expect in-flight broadband to replicate the same levels of connectivity they experience when browsing on the ground. Furthermore, demand for onboard connectivity is not just restricted to long-haul travel, passengers are equally willing to pay to log-in whether they are flying short distances (64 per cent), medium haul (68 per cent) or long haul (69 per cent).
Passengers across the world have different needs when it comes to in-flight broadband, with those in Latin America primarily looking to connect in order to stream video as a priority. They are also most likely to think in-flight connectivity will usurp in-flight entertainment.
Asia Pacific passengers mainly seek access to travel websites and apps. European travellers, who are used to onboard connectivity everywhere they go, want to be able to keep up-to-date and in constant contact with friends and family whenever they travel on flights.
The Inmarsat In-Flight Connectivity Survey highlights airline passengers’ increasing reliance on connectivity wherever and whenever they fly and there is clear indication that this level of demand is set to continue in the future.
Leo Mondale, President of Inmarsat Aviation, said: “Demand for broadband in the sky has reached such unprecedented levels around the world that airlines, as well as those in the business aviation and aircraft lessor markets, 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 has the infrastructure, commitment and investment power to deliver the best capacity, now and in the future.”
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. The launch of its Global Xpress (GX) Aviation service this year creates the world’s first high-speed passenger broadband solution with seamless, end-to-end global coverage, delivered through a single operator. Engineered to meet the needs of complex and evolving airline route systems, initial customers include Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines and Jazeera Airways.
The GX network, which entered commercial service with three powerful Ka-band satellites in December 2015, will provide the international bandwidth capacity needed to meet existing and near-term demand from airlines. It also serves as a global coverage underlay that will be built upon as part of the aviation broadband roadmap to meet future demand.
Inmarsat is scheduled to launch its fourth GX satellite, produced by Boeing, later this year and has awarded Airbus Defence and Space a contract to build two additional satellites (Inmarsat-6 F1 and F2) with a Ka-band payload to add depth to its global GX coverage. The first Inmarsat-6 satellite is scheduled for delivery by the close of the decade.
Another vital component in the roadmap is Inmarsat’s European Aviation Network, which will be the first aviation passenger connectivity solution across European airspace to integrate an advanced satellite network and LTE-based ground network; the latter will be operated by Deutsche Telekom. The first commercial EAN trials are expected in mid-2017.
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