There was a time — not so long ago — when the decision-making process was straight forward, depending of course, on what it was you were purchasing. In the case of hotels abroad, people usually made their buying decisions based on a combination of some or all the following: location, facilities, price, reputation, brand. In the case of facilities, high amongst the requirements would have been a swimming pool and/or a sea view and whilst many of these criteria are still important, they have been superseded or even replaced by other criteria which travelers now find even more important. Prime amongst these is the issue of Wi-Fi — the availability (or not) of it, its speed and ultimately whether its free or not and if not; at what cost? Because of the connected, always-on world that we now live in, not being able to access one’s favourite social media channel or website is now considered unthinkable and thus tends to dominate the mental checklist that consumers go through when they’re evaluating a property.
It doesn’t stop there though! Airlines are now increasingly being caught up in this feature/benefit war where Wi-Fi is increasingly being considered a ‘must-have’, when flying at 30,000 feet. Over 80% of American carriers now offer some level of connectivity on board their aircraft while the rest of the world plays catch-up and ironically, British Airways, who were one of the early adopters in that space are now woefully behind a lot of their competitors.
Now before you start getting all excited, please bear in mind that such in-air speeds are still modest, and bandwidth limited so don’t expect to be able to stream your favourite Netflix programme while you fly, but speeds are usually fast enough to accommodate general browsing and answering emails etc in at least 30 percent of cases. No longer are airlines being evaluated on issues such as price, route and seat pitch but also inflight entertainment, catering and whether you can plug in and sign on!
So, who’s who in this brave new world of online connectivity? In the US, Delta lead the pack, followed by American, United and Southwest in 2nd, 3rd and 4th place. Jetblue are a lacklustre 10th whilst Alaska Airlines are trailing even further behind in 15th place. Internationally, Icelandair rule the roost in 1st place with Emirates in 3rd place, Lufthansa in 6th and Etihad, Qatar and Turkish in 7th, 8th and 9th places respectively.
The rollout of Wi-Fi in the air is increasing at a dramatic rate with the industry showing a 129% increase in 2018 over the previous year. US travellers have an 80 percent expectation that their next flight will have Wi-Fi on board whereas outside the US, that expectation drops to a very underwhelming 20% so still much room for improvement.