Since we’re all running in similar circles these days, you’ve no doubt seen the report from Travelzoo’s meta-search engine Fly.com which suggests that fewer than 5% of passengers want in-flight mobile and Internet access based on a survey of frequent travellers.
Furthermore, the September survey “revealed that more than 30% of people would actively avoid travelling with an airline that offered such services”, according to Fly.com.
Whoa, whoa, whoa there little doggie. Say what?
Moving past the sensational headline of Fly.com’s press release, let’s take a look at the actual survey. In tiny print at the bottom of the statement, you’ll find that the source of the information is: “Travelzoo European subscriber survey, October 2011, 50,000 UK subscribers were asked at random, n=1359. The survey was completed online using QuestionPro software and no incentives were offered.”
Okay, so we know that the survey was limited to British travellers, and only 1,359 of them participated. But did you know that most of the British travellers surveyed have never even had the opportunity to use in-flight connectivity?
I asked Fly.com to provide me its raw data for the survey. The first question asked was: “Have you ever flown on a plane where you have been allowed to use a mobile device for either internet or making phone calls during the flight?”
The overwhelming 86.45% majority of respondents answered in the negative. Yet, many of those who answered in the affirmative didn’t remember where they had tried the connectivity. Some even referred to airlines or routes that don’t offer true in-flight mobile or Internet connectivity, but rather narrowband data services through the IFE or onboard telephony.
Thankfully, some respondents did recall that they were able to use their mobile phone on Emirates, Ryanair (before the carrier switched its service off), and British Airways (A318s to NY), among others.
But, in light of what we now know, I think it’s fair to say that the data does not tell the whole story. I’m not even going to address Fly.com’s question about whether the same passengers who have not used in-flight connectivity think mobile phones put the safety of a plane at risk!!
These kinds of surveys are exasperating, but they underscore the importance of informing the general public about what in-flight connectivity options are available to them, and how the systems are installed with safety in mind.
I also stress to airlines that managing expectations is crucial; if you are offering in-flight Wi-Fi but not a true high-speed connection, then be up front with your passengers (and reasonable with your pricing).
If you’re offering in-flight voice, be clear about your on board etiquette rules.
And if you’re reading surveys like the one above to help you decide whether or not to bring in-flight connectivity on board your aircraft, come on back and read this blog for the real story.
P.S. Sorry about the pace of my posts of late. I’ve been a rolling stone over the past several weeks, with trips to LA, Paris, Seattle, Rome, and Las Vegas (where I got down and funky in blue plastic). Next, I’m off to Dallas, then LA and Dubai. But I assure you I never forget which carrier offers in-flight connectivity on my trips. My last connected flight was on board an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 with Gogo. And it was FANTASTIC! Note to the Brits.