Skift Take

The in-flight Wi-Fi sector is just revving up globally, and lots of user habits are still to be understood and defined, along with the business models that will follow and enable it. Some interesting results here hint at the possibilities.

— Rafat Ali

As in-flight Wi-Fi becomes much more pervasive, passenger adoption of it is increasing.

But user habits are still to be studied and defined. We decided to ask U.S. in-flight Wi-Fi users about their habits and patterns of usage to better understand how they use it.

Using Google Consumer Surveys, we asked U.S. users a series of questions. Starting with the qualifying question, “Have you used Wi-Fi on an airline before?” we then drilled down to why those who answered “yes” used it: for work, for entertainment, or for communicating.

We came up with an interesting result: The majority of American users of in-flight Wi-Fi cite entertainment and personal communications as their primary use case for it, while a significant minority say it is mainly for business use.

Important: This single-question survey — not served to Skift users — was administered to the U.S. internet population from Apr 15-17, 2014 through Google Consumer Surveys, with a qualifying question with 1234 responses, and then the main question was served to about 250 previous airline wi-fi users. The methodology is explained here. See previous Skift Surveys here.

The full results and breakdown by gender, age, geography and other criteria, below.

» The qualifying question: It is interesting that about 18 percent of Americans say they have used in-flight Wi-Fi, which at this point is high. It still has a lot of growth in it.

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» The main result and takeaway: the majority — 60 percent — of American fliers who have used in-flight wi-fi have used it for entertainment and personal communications use.


» The gender breakdown: Men are more prone to use in-flight Wi-Fi for work, while women are more prone to use it for entertainment and communication. With this small sample size, more in-depth research is needed to understand gender behavior.

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» The age breakdown: Younger passengers use in-flight Wi-Fi for communicating with friends on ground. Maybe Gogo needs to come up with a communications-only package!

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» Regional breakdown: No discernible trends with the small sample size and margin of error.

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» The urban-rural divide: Urban users are more prone to use in-flight Wi-Fi for work.

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» Income breakdown: Americans with a salary in the $75-100K range tend to use in-flight Wi-Fi for work.

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