Research released by satellite communications provider Inmarsat shows growing demand for inflight Wi-Fi, with 60% of passengers regarding the service as “a necessity, not a luxury.”

“The availability of inflight broadband has become a major factor when choosing an airline,” Inmarsat Aviation president Leo Mondale said.

Detailing the findings of the third annual global Inflight Connectivity Survey, Inmarsat said passenger expectations are growing, with connectivity playing a greater role in their airline choices.

“Nearly half of respondents (44%) said they would stop using their preferred airline within the next year, if it did not offer connectivity enabling them to stream or browse online without interruption,” Inmarsat said.

Experienced high-quality inflight Wi-Fi users ranked connectivity third on their list of priorities, behind ticket price (53%) and flight slots (44%). Among this group, 61% said Wi-Fi took priority over inflight entertainment (IFE). However, 56% of respondents said unreliable inflight internet was a major cause of frustration.

“Passengers have the highest expectations of connectivity in the Asia-Pacific region, where 91% of passengers are willing to pay for Wi-Fi on a long-haul flight,” Inmarsat said.

In terms of revenue generation, 45% would rather pay for Wi-Fi than use free IFE. Meanwhile, 52% said they would be willing to buy items on board and collect on arrival, suggesting opportunities for inflight e-commerce

Inmarsat said that “77% of passengers would pay for inflight connectivity on short-haul leisure flights, an increase from 64% in 2016. Those happiest to pay are passengers aged 25-34, parents traveling with children and passengers traveling in Asia Pacific and the US.”

On long-haul leisure flights, 89% of passengers said they were willing to pay.

Wi-Fi is particularly important to passengers traveling with children, with 66% referring to it as a “lifesaver” for keeping them entertained during flights.

The survey data was collected in February 2017 from 9,000 passengers in 18 countries across Europe, the Middle East, Asia Pacific, and North and Latin America.

Victoria Moores victoria.moores@penton.com