A new report finds that U.S. airlines remain way ahead of their foreign counterparts in the availability of in-flight Wi-Fi.
However, the Routehappy.com report also notes that the world’s airlines have quite a ways to go in offering what it calls the “best” Wi-Fi – i.e., “comparable to a home connection” in that it offers the highest speeds available and permits advanced media streaming.
“U.S. airlines continue to get closer to offering Wi-Fi on nearly every flight, a benefit of having started Wi-Fi rollouts earlier than airlines in most other regions,” Routehappy said. “Delta and United now have it installed on every single aircraft larger than 50-seat regional jets, while American is also closing in on this milestone. This is the result of multi-year installation programs, which are finally wrapping up.”
The company said that for U.S. airlines, 80 percent of available seat miles (ASMs) are now flown on Wi-Fi-equipped aircraft, compared with just 18.5 percent of ASMs on foreign airlines worldwide. (U.S. airlines that offer none at all include ultra-low-cost carriers like Frontier and Spirit, “which have no intention of rolling it out in the near future,” Routehappy said.)
In terms of quality, the company found that of equipped aircraft worldwide, only 7.2 percent offer the “best” product – an increase of just 1.2 points in the past year. Most aircraft (61 percent) provide what Routehappy calls “better” quality – i.e., capable of full web browsing and limited media streaming, while the rest have just basic service.
However, that should change fast. “While the overwhelming majority of flights operating with Best Wi-Fi today are found on JetBlue and some United flights, next-generation systems are now rapidly coming online, with major airline commitments announced more regularly than in prior years,” Routehappy said.
“Gogo’s 2Ku system (i.e., an advanced satellite-based network) has recently launched with multiple major global airlines such as Delta, Aeromexico, and Virgin Atlantic. Inmarsat’s GX for Aviation is also in the beginning stages of going live to passengers. Deutsche Telekom’s high-speed air-to-ground network is being built throughout the European Union and UK, and British Airways will use this network starting in mid-2017; SAS and Finnair have also tapped Viasat for European Wi-Fi. All these systems are pending installation in thousands of aircraft. While equipment installation will take years to complete, by the end of 2017 flyers will see a big increase of Best Wi-Fi available to them.”
The deployment of these newer technologies means that in-fight Wi-Fi speed and quality “will dramatically improve” in the months and years ahead, the company said, and the cost to passengers should come down as well.
Looking just at long-haul flights – which Routehappy defines as more than 2,800 miles – the report says that only seven airlines now offer Wi-Fi on 100 percent of their flights: United, Delta, Iberia, Etihad, Icelandaor, Lufthansa and Singapore’s Scoot.
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