A recent airline passenger survey by Viasat has found free inflight wifi is almost as influential a factor as ticket price for many travellers.
The findings reveal growing demand and expectation for in-flight Wi-Fi, as 83% say they would be more likely to rebook with an airline offering quality onboard connectivity
Viasat, Inc., a global communications company, surveyed 11,000 people worldwide who had flown in the past 12 months as part of its 2023 Passenger Experience Survey.
As passenger numbers reach near-record levels and global travel is firmly back on the cultural agenda, the findings show that passenger expectations are starting to increase in turn. In fact, 83% of those surveyed reported they were more likely to rebook with an airline that offered quality Wi-Fi, while 81% said Wi-Fi was important to their onboard experience, a 4% increase since 2022.
Half of respondents said they were less likely to connect to in-flight Wi-Fi if they had to pay. Moreover, three in 10 passengers surveyed (29%) were willing to pay more for their ticket to benefit from free Wi-Fi. Other than ticket price, free in-flight Wi-Fi has become the most influential factor for passengers when choosing an airline (22%) – ahead of free food and drink (18%), legroom (13%), and free entertainment (9%).
In the US, demand for free in-flight Wi-Fi increased by 50% since 2022’s survey, with India seeing a 42% increase, and Brazil 35%. Half of passengers worldwide (50%) now say Wi-Fi should be free on all short-haul flights and more than eight in ten (82%) for long-haul flights.
But access to free in-flight Wi-Fi is only the tip of the iceberg; 47% of passengers want unlimited social media access in the skies, while one in five want to game (22%), demonstrating the desire to be connected and not to miss out on life on the ground.
This ‘fear of missing out’ is especially prevalent in sports fans with four in five passengers (81%) saying they would pay for access to live sports during a flight – with the FIFA World Cup the most in-demand (45%), followed by the Olympics (28%) and the NBA (25%).
However, to benefit from reliable Wi-Fi and edge-of-your-seat experiences, the vast majority (89%) would be willing to make some sacrifices, with 42% happy to see advertisements, and a third happy to give up alcoholic beverages (34%) or loyalty points (33%) in exchange. And when it comes to enjoying free connectivity onboard, 88% of passengers would expect some restrictions, such as advertisements (38%).
“These findings give us a fascinating insight into the minds of passengers at a critical time for the aviation sector,” says Jimmy Dodd, SVP & President, Global Enterprise & Mobility at Viasat. “It is encouraging to see passenger numbers close to pre-Covid levels and the 2023 Passenger Experience Survey shows how quickly travellers have adopted to digital nativism, including expectations for free, fast Wi-Fi and edge-of-your-seat experiences, like live TV and live sport at 30,000 feet.”
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