APEX Insight: Routehappy today released its 2017 Wi-Fi report, which shows the progress airlines have made in offering Internet access to their passengers. While in-flight connectivity is not yet globally pervasive, the data presented in the report reveals a trend toward an increase in both quantity of flights offering Wi-Fi and quality of the connection.
Wi-Fi is available on over 70 airlines according to a report released today, which was produced using Routehappy data from December 19, 2016, for flights departing February 13, 2017. “In-flight Wi-Fi is no longer just for early adopters — just look at the number of people on your next flight using Wi-Fi,” said Robert Albert, CEO of Routehappy.
The report shows that 39 percent of available seat miles (ASMs: the number of seats for sale multiplied by the number of miles flown) worldwide have at least a chance of connectivity on board, an 8-percent increase over last year. In other words, airline passengers worldwide now have a 39-percent chance of boarding a Wi-Fi-equipped flight.
Passengers flying on US airlines have a higher chance of accessing in-flight Wi-Fi, since 83 percent of their ASMs offer at least a chance of connectivity. Meanwhile, rollout in the rest of the world is in its earlier stages: Passengers will only encounter Wi-Fi on less than 30 percent of non-US airlines’ ASMs.
The data for the quantity of flights offering Internet access tells one story, but data about the quality of the connection paints a slightly less bright picture. “Best Wi-Fi,” comparable to a home connection and capable of advanced media streaming, is only available on seven percent of ASMs while “Basic Wi-Fi,” which is not conducive to streaming media, but supports chatting, low-bandwidth apps and basic web browsing, is available on 32 percent of ASMs. Between those two categories lies the 61 percent of ASMs featuring “Better Wi-Fi,” which can be used for full web browsing and limited media streaming.
“In-flight Wi-Fi is no longer just for early adopters – just look at the number of people on your next flight using Wi-Fi.” — Robert Albert, Routehappy
One of the more striking graphs in Routehappy’s report shows the breakdown, by airline, of Wi-Fi availability on long-haul routes. Emirates is at the top of the list, boasting nearly double the Wi-Fi availability – measured in ASMs – of its nearest competitor, United Airlines. This is partly because Emirates has a larger fleet of highest-capacity Airbus A380 aircraft. For its part, United offers passengers a 100-percent chance of getting Wi-Fi coverage on its long-haul flights; as do Delta, Etihad, Iberia, Icelandair, Lufthansa and Scoot.
Major carriers such as British Airways, KLM and Qantas aren’t among the top 20 airlines, in terms of most pervasive in-flight connectivity offerings… yet. These airlines – and others – have made fleet-wide commitments to Wi-Fi that are still rolling out. The silver lining: when these carriers introduce their own Wi-Fi offerings, they’ll be skipping some of the older technology with which earlier adopters experimented.
As was the case on the ground, in-flight Wi-Fi will quickly become expected by passengers. As of 2017, airlines are working harder than ever to meet the demand for faster, more pervasive in-flight wireless connectivity. This will present certain challenges and opportunities for airlines and connectivity providers, in terms of monetization and marketing.