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Inmarsat: “Free is the future for IFC”

August 9, 2023

By Chris Forrester

Airline passengers can – on some aircraft – already enjoy free in-flight WiFi. Other airlines allow their premium passengers either totally ‘free’ broadband or a service that’s good for a set number of minutes.

Of course, none of these are truly ‘free’ in that the savvy airline operator has already built the cost of supplying broadband access into its ticket price.

But satellite operator Inmarsat, now owned by Viasat, says that its passengers lives are now almost defined by connectivity. Wherever they are they are connected to streams, endless scrolls, and workflows that fill their lives.

“It is now incongruent to go hours unconnected, which has accelerated the expectation for airlines to provide a form of free inflight connectivity,” states Inmarsat. “Connectivity – free at the point of access – is the expectation everywhere these days. Cruising altitude is no exception.”

“In fact, our recent Passenger Experience Survey found that 77 percent of passengers now view inflight Wi-Fi as critical to their experience. And that is increasing fast, being 40 percentage points higher than pre-pandemic measurement. Our research also shows that free Wi-Fi is expected across age groups and for both long and short-haul flights,” adds Inmarsat. “And it’s not just younger passengers that expect Wi-Fi to be free. Of those aged 55 and over, 86 percent expect Wi-Fi to be free onboard. This compares to 78 per cent of those in Generation Z (those born between the late 1990s and 2010) who we usually consider to be our most digitally native generation.”

Indeed, Inmarsat issues a warning to airline operators, noting: “If your airline isn’t delivering on these changing expectations, it might be falling behind the pack in the race to capture and engage customers.”

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