Airline Passengers Want Wi-Fi So Badly, They’d Trade Legroom for It
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Airline Passengers Want Wi-Fi So Badly, They’d Trade Legroom for It

September 5, 2013

Source: WIRED

Apparently we’re not satisfied traveling at nearly 10 miles a minute. Now we expect to be able to communicate at the speed of light all of the time, even while we’re traveling in that big ol’ jet airliner. Passengers have a strong desire for Wi-Fi, and they’re even willing to give up some of the small comforts of flying, according to a recent survey conducted by Honeywell. Everybody complains about the legroom, but it many would be happy to trade a comfy seat for a reliable laptop connection.

Honeywell has a strong interest in just how badly you want to be connected during your flight. The company is one of several firms that makes in-flight connectivity possible for airline passengers, and in an effort to highlight a new service it will start in 2015, it wants to remind travelers just how “bad” things are today.

Honeywell surveyed more than 3,000 travelers in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Singapore, and the results show — unsurprisingly — that travelers want access to Wi-Fi every time they fly, and so far we’re far from satisfied with the connectivity while flying through the sky in a massive aluminum tube. Though to be fair, much of that frustration might simply be due to the fact that passengers have to pay for Wi-Fi on the flight, and when you pay for something there’s a general expectation to receive the service. That’s not always the case with onboard internet.

Of those adults surveyed, 55 percent of the U.S. passengers said they mostly use in-flight connectivity for personal reasons, and just 22 percent say they use it mostly for professional reasons. Both the U.K. and Singapore passengers claimed more professional and less personal use.

When it comes to when we should be connected, 86 percent of American passengers say every flight should give them the opportunity to check Twitter, update their fantasy football line-up, or send an email to a co-worker. But even when the airplane is Wi-Fi equipped, not everybody is happy. Around 90 percent of all respondents said they are frustrated with the connectivity when they fly, which is no surprise for anybody who’s tried to send a short email from 35,000 feet.

Being connected is far from guaranteed a flight, and any time somebody decides to suck up all the bandwidth, everybody else is going to suffer. But in an era of non-stop whining about crowded airplanes, many people are willing to give up one thing for a more reliable web surfing experience. Nearly nine out of 10 passengers surveyed said they were willing to give something up on their flight, with one-third of U.S. passengers saying they would give up the ability to recline their seats, and 38 percent responding they would give up their preferred seat. And not that the snacks or beverages are much to brag about these days, but 42 percent of passengers would exchange peanuts for Wi-Fi, while nearly one-quarter would pass on the drinks.

Most Wi-Fi on airliners these days is limited to connections while flying over land. A few airlines do use satellite-based systems that allow connectivity over water, a service Honeywell is working on expanding. By 2015, the company says it will be offering a new satellite-based system that it says will provide full, reliable live-streaming capabilities for passengers on flights over land and water. We’d take that over a kid-sized bag of stale pretzels.

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