Satisfying the always-connected traveller

Inflight connectivity: what was considered the reserve of media-hungry millennials and early adopters has now become a typical requirement from travellers. And as the demand for connectivity grows across the board, airlines are under pressure to keep up with expectations.

Reliability over speed

In one of our most comprehensive surveys, we’ve gathered responses from more than 9,000-passengers across the world, 83% of whom would proactively select an airline that offers in-flight Wi-Fi.

What’s far more telling is that more than half of passengers would prefer connectivity to an in-flight meal! And on top of that, the majority of travellers are willing to actually pay for in-flight connectivity, regardless of the distances they’re travelling, which speaks volumes about the value they place on being connected, whether it’s to stay in touch with friends and family during the flight, stream video or use applications.

But offering Wi-Fi on an airline is only the beginning, as evidenced by very specific concerns shared by passengers about the quality of their connection.

Once getting on the plane they expect the Wi-Fi to be dependable above all else. Three out of four passengers (75%) valued reliability of the network, while speed lagged behind, with just 19% of respondents considering it a priority.  And why wouldn’t they value reliability? Out of those who had the opportunity to use Wi-Fi on board, one in ten weren’t even able to successfully connect their devices to the aircraft’s network, let alone use it.

According to our survey, 60% of passengers are also less inclined to connect if the service is poor, but a reliable service that does not disconnect itself at regular intervals during the flight can be expected to be well-utilised. We already know modern travellers to be as restless as they are voracious for media, and will only have so much patience for a poor connection before giving up on it.

We have a very clear picture of what the connected aircraft must offer the consumer within the next few years to keep up.

The future of on-board connectivity

You can also imagine how frustrating an unreliable connection must be to the passenger, when 78% of those we surveyed expect to see Wi-Fi replace traditional in-flight entertainment systems within the next five to ten years. In the recent past, we saw travellers stowing away their tablets and smartphones into their carry-on luggage in favour of a nap or using the in-flight entertainment system and quite often only taking their devices out only once they’ve landed. But we are now ushering in a rapidly growing trend of travellers keeping their tablets or smartphones in their front seat pockets, and logging on promptly after take-off in order to stream content.

This is especially true in Latin America, for example, where passengers were most likely to believe that in-flight connectivity will usurp traditional in-flight video entertainment in the future. So we weren’t surprised when we also found most Latin American passengers were looking to connect to Wi-Fi primarily to stream video.

With the Inmarsat In-Flight Connectivity Survey, we have a very clear picture of what the connected aircraft must offer the consumer within the next few years to keep up. I’m very excited to see how airlines and their partners tackle this challenge of the always-on, always-connected passenger.

Additional information on the survey, including white papers, infographics and regional break-downs for Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America, are available at

26 May 2016

Leo Mondale
President, Inmarsat Aviation