Are UK passengers prepared to pay for inflight Wi-Fi?

A passenger using inflight Wi-Fi via BoardConnect Plus by Lufthansa Systems.Recent survey findings from the “World Travel Market London 2017 Industry Report” suggest that UK passengers might not be as keen to pay for inflight Wi-Fi access as has been suggested.

The “World Travel Market London 2017 Industry Reportsurveyed 1,025 British holidaymakers, all of whom took a minimum seven-day summer holiday overseas or in the UK in 2017.

The survey found that two-thirds (67%) of British travellers say they are not prepared to pay for inflight Wi-Fi access.

However, three in ten (29%) said they would be interested in the service on long-haul flights, with 10 percent ready to pay on short-haul flights.

The UK-focused findings from the WTM London 2017 Industry Report are in sharp contrast to the headline findings from the 2017 Inflight Connectivity Survey, produce by Inmarsat and GfK.

That study aggregated responses from 9,000 travellers in 18 countries and found that, overall, 77% of passengers would pay for inflight connectivity on short-haul flights with 89% willing to pay on long-haul flights.

Some airlines offer business, first class and frequent flier passengers free access as part of the tickets, while others have a tiered pricing option.

European airlines are relatively new to the inflight Wi-Fi game, at least compared with the US where it has been commonplace for years. Pricing strategies are therefore a little bit of an untested area.

For example, Lufthansa with its new Inmarsat GX offering currently charges €3 for FlyNet Message, €7 for FlyNet Surf and €12 for FlyNet Stream on short and medium-haul routes.

These are priced per flight and FlyNet Message only allows the use of messaging services such as email, WhatsApp or iMessage.

FlyNet Surf also enables passengers to surf the Internet, which the FlyNet Stream service package, video and audio streaming is also possible.

On the other hand KLM, with its Panasonic Avionics’ Ku-band inflight Wi-Fi offering on its Boeing 787 Dreamliners, has opted for a “per megabyte” pricing structure on long-haul flights.

It charges €5 for up to 20Mb, €10 for up to 50Mb and €30 for up to 200Mb.

Once bought the voucher lasts for 24 hours, but it is very hard for passengers to know exactly how much data they are going to use. For example, on a recent KLM flight from Dubai to Amsterdam, I checked my email, went to a few web pages and downloaded a PDF of a publication to check. And with that, the 50Mb was used up.

A per-flight or per-hour basis is easier to manage and understand, at least from a passenger perspective.

Either way inflight Wi-Fi remains a compelling ancillary revenue generator for airlines.

A recent Inmarsat-sponsored study from the London School of Economics identified inflight connectivity as a medium-to long-term revenue growth line for airlines.

It says inflight broadband has the potential to create a $130 billion global market within the next 20 years, resulting in $30 billion of additional revenue for airlines by 2035.

Airlines can also expect to earn money through advertising, e-commerce and destination shopping and by charging extra for premium content.

But the proof of the pudding, as always, is in the eating. And only time will tell what UK passengers are prepared to pay for.

Steve Nichols
Editor, Get Connected

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