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In-flight Wi-Fi was once a perk offered by airlines to distinguish themselves from competition, but as travelers prioritize mobile connectivity, airlines need to offer more than a slow connection to impress fliers. The speed and cost of a connection are becoming increasingly important factors when comparing airline services.
Wi-Fi is the preferred connection for passengers with the number of Wi-Fi-enabled aircraft increasing 60 percent this year. U.S. airlines lead the way for the number of installations with over one 1,000 Wi-Fi connected aircraft flying under Delta and American Airlines.
Despite the popularity of Wi-Fi, cellular-enabled aircraft will also increase approximately 80 percent this year with 411 planes offering a cellular connection. However, the best option is outfitting aircraft with both cellular and Wi-Fi options. Aircraft capable of both connections will have increased by 355 percent to a total of 450 planes by the end of the year.
Wi-Fi and cellular connections will continue to increase on international flights as Middle Eastern carriers such as Emirates, Qatar Airways, and Cathay Pacific catch up to the technology. Lufthansa is currently the leading European airline in terms of connectivity.