Travellers are willing to base airline decisions on internet availability, says Patricia Hume, chief operating officer at iPass
There’s a maxim from the old guard of business travellers that goes something like “time in the air is time you’ll never get back.” Because not too long ago, reclining your seat, having yourself some peanuts, and getting as much sleep as possible was the most productive imaginable sequence on any given flight.
Even with the advent of laptops and early smartphones, travellers could maybe draft a couple emails, put together a few slides, or review some spreadsheets. That’s the dirty little secret of the mobile technology world: tablets, iPhones, and laptops may be perfectly suited to your tray-table office, but unless you have some way to connect your device to the internet, there’s not a whole lot you can do with it that’s productive. By the time you get off your flight, you’re facing an inbox that is the result of 2-16 hours of uninterrupted email bombardment.
Enter in-flight Wi-Fi, and suddenly all that great mobile technology is capable of fulfilling the promise of its design. Perfect timing, as well. Research shows that 42.5% of the global workforce will be mobile by 2022, and in advanced economies like the European Union and the U.S., that number will soar to 75% within the same time period. Those professionals expect to be connected at all times, whether they’re at home or 39,000 feet above earth.
Of course, because the mobile workforce continues to grow, so too do the expectations of mobile productivity. It is expected that you are able to access your company’s cloud service. It is expected that you respond to email. Whether you’re in-transit or not is becoming largely irrelevant. This is due in no small part to the advent of high-speed inflight Wi-Fi from providers such as Gogo, ViaSat, and Panasonic Avionics, which have made it possible for mobile professionals to maximise their productivity between departure and arrival.
Inflight Wi-Fi enables passengers to:
• Read and respond to emails in a timely manner
• Securely access company cloud services
• Answer texts from colleagues, friends, and family
• Check in to their next flight, confirm hotel and rental car reservations, scan Google maps for traffic and route planning, and look for the best local restaurants
And what should not be lost in all of this is the entertainment value. Not only does inflight Wi-Fi keep passengers in sync with their colleagues, it also affords them the creature comforts that accompany home Wi-Fi. For instance, passengers can check social media sites, stream their favourite Netflix shows, and follow the scores of their favourite team in real time.
To mobile professionals, the value of inflight Wi-Fi is evident. Especially to pilots and cabin crews, who are the heavyweight champions of the mobile workforce. But it’s also a great perk for leisure travellers. Consider this: a study found that 58% of travellers, a majority of them leisure travellers, have a frequent flyer membership with at least one airline, and that 25% have elite status.
Yet, in spite of this, the same study found that many travellers are willing to choose an alternative to their preferred airline just to access the internet in flight. Who can blame them? Having Wi-Fi on a flight is a game changer. For mobile workers, it means you can disembark without cringing at the thought of a bloated inbox or the many work-related fires you’ll be putting out from your hotel room. For leisure travellers, it means your vacation isn’t marred by an outdated travel experience.
To put it plainly, inflight Wi-Fi is no longer a luxury. It’s an expectation. Like peanuts, pretzels, or soft drinks in those tiny cans. After all, once you’ve gone through all your emails and you’ve had enough Game Of Thrones for one flight, kicking back your chair and getting some shut-eye is a great way to run out the clock before touchdown.