Free in-flight wi-fi now more influential than ticket price


Viasat, a global communications company, has announced the findings of its 2023 Passenger Experience Survey, which polled more than 11,000 people worldwide who have travelled by air in the last 12 months (see below). The results, which are being shared at APEX Expo in Long Beach, have raised some interesting insights.

As passenger numbers are reaching near-record levels, the survey findings show that passenger expectations are also starting to increase. Indeed 83% of those surveyed reported they are more likely to rebook with an airline that offers a quality inflight wi-fi service, while 81% said that wi-fi is important to their onboard experience – a 4% increase over the 2022 survey result.

Half of respondents say they are less likely to connect to in-flight wi-fi if they have to pay a fee. Moreover, 29% of passengers surveyed are willing to pay more for their ticket if it includes access to wi-fi. The survey found that, other than ticket price, free access to in-flight wi-fi has become the most influential factor for passengers when choosing an airline (22%) – ahead of free food and drink (18%), legroom (13%), and free inflight entertainment (9%).

In the US, demand for free in-flight wi-fi has increased by 50% since 2022’s survey, with India seeing a 42% increase, and Brazil 35%. Half of passengers worldwide (50%) now say that wi-fi should be free on all short-haul flights and more than eight in ten (82%) for long-haul flights.

In a similar vein, 47% of passengers want unlimited access to social media during flight, while 22%  want to game, 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 some 81% of passengers surveyed say they would pay for access to live sport during a flight – with the FIFA World Cup the most in-demand (45%), followed by the Olympics (28%) and the NBA (25%).

However, to benefit from reliable wi-fi 89% of those surveyed said they would be willing to make some sacrifices, with 42% happy to see advertisements, and 34% happy to give up alcoholic beverages, or loyalty points (33%) in exchange. And when it comes to enjoying free connectivity onboard, 88% of passengers would expect some restrictions, such as advertisements (38%).

“These findings give us a fascinating insight into the minds of passengers at a critical time for the aviation sector,” said Jimmy Dodd, SVP & president, global enterprise & mobility at Viasat. “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.”

You can download the full report here.

About the survey

Research for the report was conducted by Censuswide on behalf of Viasat in July 2023. The researchers surveyed a statistically representative sample of 11,053 respondents, all of whom had flown within the last year. This was made up of 2,002 respondents in the UK, 2,504 respondents in the US, 500 respondents in Brazil, 1,255 respondents in Germany, 1,263 respondents in Turkey, 502 respondents in South Korea, 500 respondents in Singapore, 500 respondents in the UAE, 1,527 respondents in India, and 500 respondents in Hong Kong.

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About Author


Ever since his first flight on a TriStar, Adam has loved air travel, and since becoming editor of the Aircraft Interiors International brand he has really enjoyed the opportunity to be involved with the latest aircraft and airline products before they are even launched. Adam co-ordinates the running of the magazine, from commissioning articles and artwork, to ensuring that high standards of quality are maintained, as well as managing online content. Adam is proud to sit on the jury of the Crystal Cabin Awards and to have laid on the bed in Etihad's Residence.

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