In-flight Wi-Fi is more prevalent than it’s ever been, with 82 airlines now offering the service, up 17% over last year.
According to Routehappy’s annual Wi-Fi Report, 2017 saw major global airlines begin to roll out long-awaited Wi-Fi systems, while early adopters opted for upgrades to existing technology.
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Nearly half (43%) of all available seat miles (ASM) offer Wi-Fi access, up 10% over last year. Airlines in the United States offer at least a chance of Wi-Fi on 86% of their ASMs, with 85% of ASMs fully rolled out.
Non-US airlines, however, offer Wi-Fi access on only 32% of their ASMs, up 14% from 2017.
Basic, Better, Best
Performance-wise, Routehappy divided Wi-Fi service among three categories: Basic, Better and Best, with Wi-Fi on the majority of flights - 57% - falling in the Better silo.
Those flights are losing ground to Best service, though, which jumped an astonishing 129% over 2017 and is available on 16% of flights. Much of this is attributed to airlines upgrading their current systems or starting fresh with higher-performing technology.
Basic service, meanwhile, accounts for just 27% of connected ASMs, down 16% from 2017.
Once viewed as a luxury of large global airlines, Wi-Fi for smaller airlines has become more accessible, thanks to lower installation and operational costs. Smaller airlines are also outfitting aircraft with Wi-Fi straight from the factory at an affordable price point.
Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and Emirates offer the most ASMs with Wi-Fi. Icelandair, Southwest Airlines and Virgin Atlantic offer in-flight service on 100% of their flights, while 13 airlines including Air Europa, Delta, Emirates and Etihad Airways have Wi-Fi on 100% of long-haul flights.
Delta for the second time upgraded the Wi-Fi on its domestic fleet in 2017, now operating with Best Wi-Fi from Gogo on 350 aircraft, which also allow for streaming services such as Netflix even over water.
Wi-Fi Quality by Percentage of ASMs
Routehappy 2018 Wi-Fi Report
Providing Best Wi-Fi in Europe for the first time was the Lufthansa Group, which launched Inmarsat’s GX for Aviation services last year. More than 150 aircraft have the service. International Airline Group has also begun its rollout of Best Wi-Fi from Gogo on long-haul flights, starting with British Airways and Iberia.
The Oceania region, which has been slower to adopt in-flight service, ramped things up late last year with Qantas signing with ViaSat, Virgin Australia with Gogo and Air New Zealand with Inmarsat.
"2017 was another progressive year for in-flight
Wi-Fi, with a large increase in the amount of airlines that provide Wi-Fi
access, on top of the growing availability of nearly half the available seat
miles worldwide," says Robert Albert, CEO of Routehappy.
"The 129% growth of Best Wi-Fi is extraordinary, it shows the commitment airlines are making to best in class systems and we expect to see this number increase even more in 2018."