How to justify charging for wifi

December 20, 2019

Travellers are increasingly willing to pay to stay connected on flights, says BBC
Global News head of research, Dr. Hamish McPharlin speaking at APEX L.A.

Frequent flyers now have a substantial interest in staying connected and are prepared to pay more for onboard wifi, according to research by BBC Global News – the BBC’s commercial, international news arm. Research lead Dr. Hamish McPharlin explains: “The global appetite for inflight connectivity is strong with 63% of regular travellers rating access to wifi important when booking a flight, and 69% saying it would significantly improve their inflight experience. Once passengers have inflight connectivity, the opportunities that follow for airlines are immense.”

Connectivity brings obvious commercial benefits for airlines, according to the research, as wifi gives passengers a better inflight experience and it improves a carrier’s reputation in terms of being seen as innovative and modern.

Over half of passengers surveyed said they were happy to pay 5% on top of their standard fare for wifi; a third would pay 20% more. McPharlin adds: ”This research shows airlines need to change the payment model. Demanding payment onboard is charging too late, but we can see there is really positive wiggle room to get revenue for wifi at the point of ticket sale.”

Some 62% of respondents said they would be more likely to choose an airline offering live TV. This rose to 78% of Business travellers and 89% of those in First. McPharlin notes: “We assume connectivity is being driven by techy millennials but actually it is Business travellers we need to think about most. They need and want to stay informed as they travel for and they are prepared to pay for it.”

McPharlin believes connectivity also brings benefits to airlines via the data it provides. “Knowing how your passengers behave inflight, what they view, allows you to serve them better in the longer term,” he adds. “It also opens up a whole new frontier around personalised advertising.”