Staying connected while off the ground is as important to travellers as in-flight beverage service, according to a recent study conducted by Honeywell Aerospace.
From its survey of 1,000 Americans who used WiFi on a plane within the past 12 months, the company concludes that the majority of passengers view connectivity as a key factor when choosing an airline.
Two thirds of respondents (66%) said that the availability of in-flight WiFi influences their choice of air carrier. Furthermore, 22% said they have spent more on airfare just to have WiFi, and 17 percent chose not to fly with their former preferred airline because a competitor offered better WiFi options.
Nowadays, the ability to connect to the internet is regarded by many as just as essential as in-flight refreshments, or perhaps even slightly more so. Thirty-seven percent of respondents said they would be upset if there was no WiFi on their next flight, compared to 35% who would be upset if they were not offered food or beverages for purchase.
Beyond the mere ability to connect to the web, passengers have come to expect a high-speed connection that allows them to quickly download large files, stream videos and communicate with their contacts on the ground.
Many of them would even be willing to go through airport security twice (45%) or to arrive three hours before boarding (34%) if it meant they could enjoy a faster connection during the flight.
However, while they want to surf freely and quickly, over half of travellers (54%) say they would be embarrassed if their in-flight neighbor caught a glimpse of what they were doing online to pass the time, such as looking at dating websites (50%), watching cat videos (32%) or watching children's movies (30%).
Delta, Air France, KLM, Emirates and Japan Airlines are some of the names on an ever-growing list of airlines that already offer WiFi on certain flights, often for an extra fee.