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Robust, reliable and global in-flight connectivity isn’t some distant dream or aspirational endeavor. It’s already here and ready to take off. What’s more, shaping in-flight broadband is a multi-billion dollar opportunity for airlines to boost ancillary revenues. So they need to move it up their list of priorities. Customers increasingly expect carriers to provide the same level of connectivity they enjoy on the ground. Naturally, with the growth of travel and explosion of social media, they want connectivity while airborne that matches that on their regular commute, or when at home or in the office.

But this isn’t something we’re assuming – the latest findings of our Inmarsat Passenger Survey reveal inflight connectivity to have hit new heights among airline passengers. The 9,000-strong survey gathered responses from passengers in 27 countries across Europe, Asia, Australasia, and Central and South America, who had carried at least one personal device on-board the aircraft on a short, medium or long-haul flight.

An incredible 92% of passengers said they’d prefer on-board connectivity but one of the key findings was that 54% would pick connectivity over an inflight meal. Technology fulfillment comes before more basic needs it would seem.

Some eight in ten (83%) passengers would also choose an airline based on whether they’ll be able to promptly log on, and access social networks, video streaming sites, apps and email during their journeys. See the video and infographics on this post for more from the survey.

Today’s customers enjoy consuming content on their own personal devices, which is why the majority of those surveyed expect on board connectivity to replace traditional in-flight entertainment systems within the next 5-10 years. This clearly means that, as an industry, we’re looking at a complete overhaul of current aircraft interiors.

But the quality of broadband offered to fliers is of paramount importance. Almost 75% of respondents picked reliability over speed, which in comparison was a priority for only 19%. The majority of passengers would be less motivated to connect if the service were poor and disconnected at regular intervals.

In order to keep up, some players are already working ahead of the curve. At Inmarsat, we’re very keenly helping our partners meet the rising demand head on. We’ve recently unveiled an aviation broadband roadmap to ensure that the rising demand for fast, reliable and global in-flight connectivity is met for the next five years and beyond.

We will launch Global Xpress (GX) Aviation this year. It’s the world’s first high-speed passenger broadband network with seamless, end-to-end global coverage, delivered through a sole operator. Our first customers now include Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines and Jazeera Airways, among others.

Air Astana is another airline that is looking ahead. Their passengers will soon become among the first in the world to enjoy broadband in-flight connectivity, after the airline’s agreement with Rockwell Collins, a leading supplier of information management to the aviation industry, which will in turn provide GX high-speed connectivity system on Air Astana’s fleet of Boeing 767 airliners in September 2016.

But as we all know, connectivity goes beyond just in-flight entertainment; an already very tangible expectation from customers. It will be very interesting to gauge where the industry stands on operations, communications and technologies that impact the connected aircraft in more shadowy terrain. How else can a ‘connected aircraft’ be further connected? That’s the next question.

- Leo

Leo Mondale, President, Inmarsat Aviation

Leo Mondale

P.S. As an industry, we’ll be talking about important topical issues at The Global Connected Aircraft Summit this June 6-8 in Los Angeles, including what affects in-flight Wi-Fi, from satellite connectivity to ground infrastructure. I hope you have an opportunity to join the conversation.

 

 

View the Inmarsat Global In Flight Survey Infographic