Thirteen million passengers used Mobile OnAir in 2014

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Passenger using a laptop on board an aircraft
A passenger using a laptop in flight. Image: Emirates.

SITA OnAir says it Is celebrating another successful year with 13 million people taking advantage of its Mobile OnAir service in 2014.

The inflight mobile phone service is now flying on 15 airlines worldwide. Over the year, 37% of passengers flying OnAir-equipped aircraft connected to the inflight network.

SITA Onair says the demand for mobile connectivity has never been higher, with 80% of passengers carrying smartphones.

In 2014, mobile data was the most popular service, used by 65% of the passengers who connected to OnAir’s onboard mobile network – mobile data includes email, social media updates and surfing the internet.

Text messaging accounted for 31% of usage and phone calls made up 21%. Many passengers use Mobile OnAir for all three activities, as people do on the ground.

Over the coming years, mobile data usage will continue to grow, driven by smartphone penetration. Voice also remains an important service, especially for business passengers.

There are some surprising regional differences. Standout examples include 58% of Egyptian users choosing to make phone calls, 82% of passengers from the Philippines using text messaging, and 84% of UK users sending emails over Mobile OnAir.

“People want to use their phones everywhere, including during flights, and Mobile OnAir makes that very simple: just turn on your phone and start using it,” said François Rodriguez, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer of SITA OnAir.

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“Phones are now such an integral part of our lives, it’s impossible to imagine leaving home without one. These usage numbers show very clearly that people don’t want to switch off at the aircraft door.

“Inflight mobile phone usage is not causing the disruption the naysayers have predicted,” continued Rodriguez.” Millions of people connected inflight on planes last year without a single complaint about noisy phone calls.”

SITA OnAir says Mobile OnAir usage levels are particularly high because it partners with mobile phone operators across the world to provide the very best deals.

The resulting lower prices are made very clear by the phone companies, encouraging people to use the service. For example, one of SITA OnAir’s newest customers is SriLankan Airlines. Dialog Axiata, the leading mobile operator in Sri Lanka, is providing 20MB of free data for its premium customers when they fly on SriLankan. SITA OnAir is developing other similar deals with phone companies across the world.

Mobile OnAir is also highly convenient, which further stimulates usage. As with international roaming, the cost is included in passengers’ regular mobile phone bills, so there is no need to enter credit card details.

SITA OnAir has over 375 roaming agreements, covering 2.6 million mobile phone subscribers.

Mobile OnAir is currently available on flag carriers, as well as other major airlines, including Azerbaijan Airways, British Airways, Egyptair, Emirates, Etihad, Iberia, Libyan Airlines, Oman Air, Philippine Airlines, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian, Saudia, Singapore Airlines, SriLankan Airlines and TAAG Angola.

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