U.S. carriers still lead the world in the availability of in-flight Wi-Fi, but foreign airlines are starting to catch up. And the quality of Wi-Fi connections, while still rather basic, is on track toward significant improvement, according to the latest annual report on the state of in-flight Wi-Fi from Routehappy.
Virgin America still ranks in first place among U.S. carriers with Wi-Fi available on almost 100 percent of its available seat miles (ASMs), Routehappy said (the exception: a few Virgin flights to Hawaii). Following in order are Delta, Southwest and United, all of which have Wi-Fi on more than 80 percent of their ASMs, the company noted.
Actually, one foreign airline topped everyone, with Wi-Fi available on 100 percent of its ASMs: Scoot, the low-fare subsidiary of Singapore Airlines. And Icelandair was on a par with Virgin America, also close to the 100 percent mark.
Although Delta ranks ahead of United and American, “both competitors have nearly closed the gap,” Routehappy said. It noted that when American absorbed US Airways into its system, it picked up another 350 Wi-Fi enabled aircraft.
Overall, travelers on U.S. airlines systemwide have “at least a chance of Wi-Fi” 78 percent of the time, vs. a 24 percent chance on foreign carriers, according to Routehappy. But it noted that foreign carriers are picking up steam. Besides Scoot, it said that “substantial Wi-Fi offerings” can now be found on the flights of Aer Lingus, Aeroflot, Etihad, Garuda, Iberia, Japan Airlines, Norwegian, and SAS.
On long-haul international routes, Routehappy said, Emirates and Lufthansa scored the best for Wi-Fi availability, “measured by number of ASMs and percentage of ASMs respectively.” The “most connected” long-haul route in the world is New York-Dubai, it said, while the least connected is London-Hong Kong.
The company also looked at the quality of in-flight Wi-Fi, which it ranks as “basic, better or best,” depending on the technology used. And that’s where there’s plenty of room for improvement. Routehappy said that in its previous annual report, issued in January 2015, it found Wi-Fi connectivity in the “best” category available on less than 1 percent of U.S. flights; today, that his risen to 6 percent of all flights worldwide.
And the company said it expects to see substantial gains in Wi-Fi quality in the months and years ahead, based on intense passenger demand for improvement.
“The mere availability of Wi-Fi is no longer enough,” Routehappy observed. “Passengers now demand a home broadband-like experience, and more airlines are now delivering this. JetBlue is nearing completion of a fleet-wide broadband rollout, allowing access to Netflix and other streaming services with no access charges; Virgin America has also recently introduced the same system. Additionally, airlines such as Delta, Aeromexico, Virgin Atlantic, Lufthansa, and others are preparing to launch high-speed broadband solutions in the near future.”
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