Corporate Travel Management News and Tips

The Future of Staying Connected Inflight

April 11, 2018 | For Travelers

At the start of 2018, Routehappy released its annual airline report including data on just how connected passengers are staying while onboard. The good news is that 82 airlines are now offering in-flight Wi-Fi, as compared to 70 the year before, so more airlines are jumping on the connection bandwagon. The bad news is that passengers may be paying a pretty penny to surf the web.

Whether you’re booking independently or using travel management services, here’s what the future of inflight Wi-Fi looks like in the year ahead.

Leaders in Inflight Connection

Routehappy’s report states that 40% of all worldwide flights and 83% US-based flights either already offer Wi-Fi, or they will soon. Just this past year, twelve airlines have stepped up to the plate to provide connectivity for the first time ever. But which airline does it best?

In the US, JetBlue is leading the way for offering the best Wi-Fi, with United coming in second. As for airlines worldwide, Delta, United, American, Emirates, and Southwest are showing as the leaders with the highest percentage of their flights having Wi-Fi available.

Airlines like British Airways, Air France, KLM, Finnair, and Qantas have made commitments to improving Wi-Fi by the fleet, but they haven’t implemented the technology on a wider scale yet. 

Best, Better, and Basic Connections

To understand travelers’ options, it’s helpful to divide the connection opportunities into categories. Routehappy divides it into Best, Better, and Basic connections. Here’s the breakdown for each:

  • Best: Categorized as satellite-based broadband services, this premium Wi-Fi offering is implemented through Gogo Inc., Via Sat Inc, and Inmarsat Plc. It is proving to be the most popular, with a 129% growth over the past year. Delta is leading the way in Best Connections with over 350 aircraft loaded with exceptional Wi-Fi.
  • Better: For this connection, passengers can browse the web, but they have limited streaming capabilities. It makes up 57% of the Wi-Fi systems in place.
  • Basic: There is no capability for passengers to stream media on this basic connection level. This type of connection is rapidly declining as passengers’ expectations and desires have changed. This offering plunged 16% from last year’s report.

Some industry leaders suspect that the Wi-Fi used at 32,000 feet is going to surpass the connections available at airports in both price and speed. However, pricing varies from airline to airline. Some are offering unlimited access throughout a flight, while others are charging by the minute or data usage.

The New Alliance

Recently, Airbus, Delta Air Lines, Sprint, and two U.S. satellite companies have formed an alliance to provide the fastest internet and a superior passenger experience. It’s rumored that SoftBank out of Japan (which owns 80% of Sprint) and Bharti Airtel out of India have also joined the alliance.

The vision for this group is to have a variety of devices that each connect easily to the internet, regardless of the altitude their flight is at. They’re hoping for the speeds to rival that of cable and 5G.

By implementing new hardware and software, they want to reduce the tension between airlines, satellite companies, and cellular service providers. Altogether, this group already serves 150M airline passengers and 450M mobile users around the world.

Now that you know what the future of onboard Wi-Fi looks like, you can plan accordingly with a travel management company like Adelman Travel. We’ve been helping clients for over thirty years. Get in touch with us today to get a custom solution for your next booking experience!