It wasn’t too long ago that people were swooning over improved IFE offerings and yet we’ve already sprung past that into a number of offshoot debates. Chief among them is the onboard connectivity question – another rapidly approaching horizon in this brave new world – and who is willing to pay to be connected in-flight.
As one of the world’s largest providers of inflight Wi-Fi, it makes sense that Gogo has conducted as large a study as it has, reaching approximately 1000 travelers between the ages of 18 and 70 in each of twelve countries. It was presented by Ash ElDifrawi in his “Understanding the Connected Passenger” talk given at this year’s Passenger Experience Conference in Hamburg.
Conducted online in a variety of European, Asian, and North American countries including the US, Germany, and China, the survey paints a portrait of an increasingly connected passenger base. Most respondents in all countries reported having more than one PED, with smartphones as the most popular to take onboard. These same smartphones are also usually chosen for personal use, while laptops tend to shoulder the business needs of passengers.
In this vein, more business travelers responded as saying that the availability of Wi-Fi onboard would affect their choice in airline. Employers seem to support this perspective and cover about 40% of Wi-Fi purchases. Across the board, about one third of those surveyed said they would be “extremely or very interested” in purchasing internet access.
Gogo’s survey didn’t account for differences in long and short haul flights, which can be a deciding factor for airlines considering the roll out of internet access onboard and future developments. Furthermore, with its focus on the destinations of partner airlines, the survey neglects the African, South American, and rapidly growing Middle Eastern markets. To assume the values would be similar could be dangerous, as even in the current survey Japan’s figures were unexpectedly low.
And so another debate rages on. Gogo’s figures make an argument for improved connectivity, even reporting that respondents overwhelmingly prefer consuming content on their own PEDs rather than through embedded IFE systems. How this fits into the future of embedded IFE systems remains to be seen.