As more and more passengers rely on personal electronic devices, in-flight entertainment is swiftly moving from watching a screen embedded in the seat in front of you to handheld devices. This shift means that more and more passengers are adding poor speed or the lack of internet connectivity to their list of travel complaints.
Meanwhile, improvements in hardware and software technology has made it possible for airlines to provide improved service for passengers. Of course, the boost in service carries its own likely boost in cost.
Currently, Delta Air Lines Inc., American Airlines Group Inc. and Emirates lead the pack in terms of offering the most Wi-Fi access. Delta and Emirates, along with 13 other carrier, also offer Wi-Fi on all long haul flights. Newer systems are now a part of the final assembly process for major carriers like Airbus SE and Boeing Co. The surge in connectivity available means that travelers today have a roughly 40% chance of landing on a flight with some kind of Wi-Fi option.
Improvements in Wi-Fi technology have made systems easier for companies to invest in better technology at a reduced price. For now, the focus is on which airlines can provide the fastest and most reliable internet connection for travelers who want to stream or simply stay connected.
Routehappy gathers information on different amenities offered by various airlines. Jason Rabinowitz, Routehappy’s director of airline research, points out that advancing technology may soon make in-flight streaming better than browsing in an airport. “Airlines are quickly moving away from older Wi-Fi systems that provided little utility at extremely high prices,” he said. “It is now likely that Wi-Fi at 32,000 feet may be cheaper and faster than the Wi-Fi at many airports.”
But how much passengers pay can still vary widely depending on which airline they choose. Some carriers sell unlimited flight passes while others charge per minute or by how much data a passenger uses during the flight. These charges can quickly add up, and they aren’t always spelled out during the online booking process.
The push now is for more transparency when it comes to the quality of Wi-Fi available as well as pricing since many travelers are now looking for better value as opposed to the cheapest ticket.