Inflight Wi-Fi is slowly getting better, but your YouTube video stream is still a few years out.
An annual report from Routehappy reveals that in-flight Internet is a rapidly growing commodity among global airlines and that across adoption, American carriers are leading the way.
60 carriers around the world now offer in flight Internet, up from 52 last year. As a result, passengers can expect to find connectivity on about 36% of miles flown around the globe.
Higher quality internet connections are also on the rise according to Jason Rabinowitz, Routehappy’s data manager. Last year, connections capable of streaming video only accounted for 1% of all miles flown while this year that percentage jumped to 6%. Medium and slow speed connections in this year’s study accounted for 53% and 41% of miles flown respectively where flights had internet. A medium connection defined in this report is capable of full web browsing and some media streaming while a slow connection can only handle basic web-based tasks like email.
That adoption of higher speed internet should further improve though 2016 as a new batch communication technology reaches the market. Gogo’s 2KU service, launched last year, provides transfer speeds of up to 70 Mb/s and is currently being installed across numerous aircraft and carriers. Inmarsat, a largely European solution, is also now coming online.
In terms of general Wi-Fi adoption, the report also found that American carriers seem to be leading the rest of the world, no doubt driven by the ultra-connected user base. Delta, United, and American Airlines (in that order) lead the world in airline seat miles with Wi-Fi capable aircraft, while carriers like Virgin America have their entire fleets outfitted with internet capability.
For passengers flying long haul routes, however, the legacy U.S. carriers aren’t necessarily the best bet. Emirates, which outfits many of its long haul routes on Wi-Fi equipped jumbo jets operates nearly double the number of miles that the next carrier does, while Lufthansa has 100% of its long haul fleet equipped with service. The best legacy carrier for inflight Wi-Fi was measured to be United Airlines.
Given the rosy outlook, there’s still much to do. Many of the nation’s aircraft are still equipped with legacy Wi-Fi hardware only capable of delivering glacial transfer speeds while other fleets — particularly in the regional space — have no connectivity whatsoever.
Fortunately, with record profits in the books, airlines are starting to double down on the passenger experience and upgrade their fleet-wide internet solutions. Before long everyone will be able to Periscope from the sky.
Routehappy’s full dataset can be found over on its site. Below is an infographic with the highlights.
Photo credit: A JetBlue plane with its FlyFi product. Skift