BBC study finds live TV as important as inflight WiFi

A study commissioned by the commercial international news arm of the BBC, BBC Global News, has revealed that live TV is as important to some fliers as WiFi connectivity. Moreover, a large proportion of frequent travelers said they would be willing to pay more for a flight that featured live TV, with a third willing to pay 20% on top of a regular fare.

Live TV inflight
Is live TV really more important than WiFi? Photo: AA

Slipstream research

In an age where many are ditching live TV in favor of on-demand entertainment, the notion that TV could be as important as WiFi on a flight seems almost absurd. However, recent research by the BBC has discovered just that, with the demand for live television services increasing with the cabin class of traveler.

The Slipstream research was commissioned by BBC Global News and was undertaken by a research consultancy called MTM. The findings of the research were originally revealed at this year’s APEX EXPO.

In order to compile the data, subjects undertook a 20-minute online survey. All participants were frequent international fliers who regularly traveled in eight specific markets. These were Japan, Singapore, the UK, Germany, LATAM, Spain and Australia. Each had traveled on at least two flights in the past 12 months, and one in four had taken five or more.

In total, 3,000 frequent fliers undertook the survey.

Key findings of the results

The headline findings offered some surprises in terms of what passengers want from their airline. While the majority of carriers today are investing heavily in WiFi, responses to this particular survey suggested that another service was almost as important, and in some cases key, to securing passenger loyalty. That service was live TV.

Onboard live TV
Passengers were willing to pay more for live TV. Photo: Emirates

While 63% of respondents said that WiFi connectivity was important when booking a flight, 62% said they would be influenced on their choice of airline if live TV was available. This is a surprising number, but even more surprising was the fact that the majority of travelers would be happy to pay more for their flight if it included live TV.

The need for live TV varied by cabin class also. The 62% who would be compelled to travel on an airline with live TV rose to 78% when the traveler was usually in business class. Move up to first, and that number rose again to 89% of passengers.

Over half agreed they would pay an increase of 5% on their fare, while a third would pay a staggering 20% to have live TV on board. There was also a lot of support for the BBC World News service, which was predictable given the commissioner of the research.

What does this mean?

While these numbers are surprising and interesting to contemplate, it’s perhaps not as groundbreaking as some might think. The survey addressed a specific niche of traveler, and the sample size was painfully small.

Airline Live TV
Airlines have been rolling out live TV around the world. Photo: Virgin

However, the desire for live TV is not completely unfounded, as is demonstrated by the number of airlines investing in the technology to make it happen. United Airlines and American Airlines have both been busy rolling out live TV on board their fleets, and Delta Air Lines has been providing it since 2016. JetBlue, famously, has offered live TV since 1999.

While domestic TV may be possible through ATG technologies, when It comes to long haul travel, live TV and WiFi go hand in hand. As such, these are boxes that will either both be ticked for our frequent flier, or not at all.

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