Last updated: 07:00 PM ET, Thu July 14 2016

Survey Shows Wi-Fi Quality Can Make or Break a Flight Booking

Airlines & Airports | Paul Thompson | July 14, 2016

Survey Shows Wi-Fi Quality Can Make or Break a Flight Booking

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

The ability to connect to Wi-Fi is so important to travelers now, that it is now a primary deciding factor for people looking to buy plane tickets. This and other revelations have been revealed in the results of Honeywell’s third annual Passenger Connectivity Survey.

Nearly three out of four airline passengers say they are ready to switch airlines to have access to a faster, more reliable Internet connection while airborne. Most travelers are dissatisfied with Wi-Fi service on their flights with only 22 percent reporting an “extremely reliable” experience within the past twelve months.

READ MORE: AA: Gogo’s Out, ViaSat’s in for Newest Fleet’s Wi-Fi

Twenty one percent of those surveyed (over 1,000 travelers) say they have abandoned an airline to which they were previously loyal because of bad Wi-Fi experience. This number is up from 17 percent in 2014. Sixty percent of survey responders said they would be disappointed if their flight did not offer Wi-Fi, and speed is the name of the game. Eighty four percent of those surveyed said they want an experience that parallels what they do at home, such as streaming video. 

Millennials are the largest force that is driving Wi-Fi consumption and they value it more than all other age groups. Seventy three percent say Wi-Fi is a factor in deciding what flights they book. Millennials want and expect a constant connection, to be able to keep in touch with friends and family, work, or just to be entertained. Eighty nine percent of Millennials expect Wi-Fi that is robust enough to stream content. Finally, 27 percent of the Millennials surveyed say they have switched airlines to find a better Wi-Fi offering.

Things are getting better, as airlines upgrade or implement modern satellite-based Wi-Fi. Among the players in the industry are Global Eagle, Gogo, Panasonic, ViaSat, and finally Honeywell. Honeywell has partnered with Inmarsat by providing their JetWave hardware, complementing Inmarsat’s Ka-band satellite Wi-Fi. The product, called GX (Global Express) is the first high-speed wireless broadband service to span the globe. Passengers can expect a similar experience over land or water, as they would have on the ground. GX offers connection speeds of up to 50Mbps. Three satellites cover the globe, providing a constant connection, whereas some providers have gaps in their network.

While Honeywell/Inmarsat GX is a relatively new product, some of the biggest names in the airline business are lining up to install the service on their planes. Lufthansa will begin installing GX on its short and medium haul flights this year. Singapore will be adding it to its long-haul aircraft, the Boeing 777-300 and Airbus A380. Qatar Airways, Vietnam Airlines and Air Caraibes have committed to equipping their fleets with JetWave and GX Aviation through the Thales A350 in-flight entertainment/connectivity program. Air China will test GX Aviation on its A330 aircraft.

READ MORE: Wi-Fi Expert Offers Advice to Business Travelers on iPass and Security

On the manufacturing side, Airbus is also far along in the engineering and certification work to make JetWave and GX Aviation an option for new aircraft in production across its entire catalog, and numerous certification processes are engaged to ensure GX and JetWave hardware can be installed on older planes as well. In addition, Boeing and Honeywell are working together to make the system offerable on a range of Boeing aircraft.


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