Free Wi-Fi more important than food and legroom for air passengers: survey

International survey reveals plane passengers want free Wi-Fi ahead of food and legroom

Plane passengers consider free Wi-Fi connectivity onboard to be more important than food and drink and even legroom, according to a new survey.

Wi-Fi on planes is second only to price of a ticket for passengers, said global communications specialist Viasat.

Viasat announced the findings of its 2023 Passenger Experience Survey, which surveyed more than 11,000 people worldwide who have travelled by air in the last 12 months.

Wi-Fi on planes

As passenger numbers reach near-record levels and global travel is firmly back on the cultural agenda,the findings show that passenger expectations are starting to increase in turn.

In fact, 83 per cent of those surveyed reported they are more likely to rebook with an airline that offered quality Wi-Fi, while 81 per cent said Wi-Fi was important to their onboard experience, a 4 per cent increase since 2022.

Half of respondents say they are less likely to connect to in-flight Wi-Fi if they had to pay.

Moreover, three in 10 passengers surveyed (29 per cent) are willing to pay more for their ticket to benefit from free Wi-Fi.

Other than ticket price, free in-flight Wi-Fi has become the most influential factor for passengers when choosing an airline (22 per cent).

It sits ahead of free food and drink (18 per cent), legroom (13 per cent), and free entertainment (9 per cent).

In the US, demand for free in-flight Wi-Fi increased by 50 per cent since 2022’s survey, with India seeing a 42 per cent increase, and Brazil 35 per cent.

Half of passengers worldwide (50 per cent) now say Wi-Fi should be free on all short-haul flights and more than eight in ten (82 per cent) for long-haul flights.

But access to free in-flight Wi-Fi is only the tip of the iceberg, according to the Viasat survey.

47 per cent of passengers want unlimited social media access in the skies, while 1 in 5 want to game (22 per cent), demonstrating the desire to be connected and not to miss out on life on the ground.

This “fear of missing out”, or FOMO, is especially prevalent for sports fans. That’s why 4 in 5 passengers (81 per cent) say they would pay for access to live sport during a flight – with the FIFA World Cup the most in-demand (45 per cent), followed by the Olympics (28 per cent) and the NBA (25 per cent).

However, to benefit from reliable Wi-Fi and edge-of-your-seat experiences, the vast majority (89 per cent) would be willing to make some sacrifices, with 42 per cent happy to see advertisements, and a third happy to give up loyalty points (33 per cent) in exchange.

When it comes to enjoying free connectivity onboard, 88 per cent of passengers would expect some restrictions, such as advertisements (38 per cent).

Jimmy Dodd, SVP and President, Global Enterprise and Mobility at Viasat, said: “These findings give us a fascinating insight into the minds of passengers at a critical time for the aviation sector.

“It is encouraging to see passenger numbers close to pre-COVID levels; and the 2023 Passenger Experience Survey shows how quickly travellers have adopted to digital nativism, including expectations for free, fast Wi-Fi and edge-of-your-seat experiences, like live TV and live sport at 30,000 feet.”


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