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Better In-Flight Wi-Fi Is Here, But What Are Your Odds for Getting It?

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Skift Take

With odds like this, things are looking up for in-flight selfies.

— Marisa Garcia

If you won Powerball billions, you may be planning lots of travel right now. You’ll probably want to be on-line during your flight, to share the journey with friends and family.

The rest of the population can take comfort that they were not struck by lightning while swimming with white elephants. Which is good. Right?

Whether you’re a brand new billionaire or only as rich as you were yesterday, we have good news for you!

Odds are now 36% (or better) that you will find decent Wi-Fi on your next flight to just about anywhere.

So says Routehappy’s latest State of In-Flight WiFi Survey.

For comparison, Routehappy reported odds of only 24% last year. So progress!

  • Flyers in the U.S. have even better odds of finding in-flight Wi-Fi at 71%—a marked improvement over last year’s 66% odds. In fact, the top three airlines world-wide offering Wi-Fi are U.S. Carriers.
  • Your odds improve significantly if you fly Delta, which offers Wi-Fi on most of its available seat miles (ASMs). United and American Airlines come in a close second and third.
  • Emirates takes 4th place among all of the world’s airlines by total ASMs, but it is the top airline going the distance on Wi-Fi. The airline offers the most connections on long-haul flights—by many, many miles (nearly 40 million long-haul ASMs compared to 2nd place United which offers connections on just over 20 million).
  • Also good news for those of you flying to Europe: if you’re flying Lufthansa long-haul you are guaranteed to find Wi-Fi service onboard. The airline offers the service on 100% of its long-haul flights.
  • Singapore Low-Cost carrier Scoot offers Wi-Fi on 100% of its ASMs.
  • Virgin America has in-flight Wi-Fi on 100% of its aircraft, but not yet turned on for a few flights to/from Hawaii.
  • Icelandair is also darned close to 100% installed.

Well Connected City Pairs

By route, your best chance to get some work done on the plane between Dubai and New York. You’ll find Wi-Fi on 100% of these flights—plus the flight is so long you get a chance to work, relax, watch a movie..and maybe take a shower, if you like.

The next-best route to fly on-line are Los Angeles-Singapore with a 74% chance, and London Singapore with a 69% chance. These are also nice long flights for productivity—but we won’t tell if you decide to spend that time on social media instead.

If you’re flying between Hong Kong and London, we recommend enjoying the complementary in-flight entertainment and/or bringing along a nice book to read or color-in. There’s only a 13% chance that you’ll find Wi-Fi onboard between these two cities.

Speeding Up Connections

The quality of Wi-Fi in all this quantity of connections is also improving.

  • Only 6% of those flights offering Wi-Fi worldwide offer the “best” quality connections, as rated by Routehappy, but that’s a big improvement over the 1% (of U.S. flights only) last year.
  • 53% of connected flights offer connections Routehappy rates as “better”. That number was 34% last year.
  • 41% offer “basic” connectivity.

Routehappy states:

“The core technology behind in-flight Wi-Fi has also evolved to allow for faster and more reliable connections. The mere availability of Wi-Fi is no longer enough. Passengers now demand a home broadband-like experience, and more airlines are now delivering this. JetBlue is nearing completion of a fleet-wide broadband rollout, allowing access to Netflix and other streaming services with no access charges; Virgin America has also recently introduced the same system. Additionally, airlines such as Delta, Aeromexico, Virgin Atlantic, Lufthansa, and others are preparing to launch high-speed broadband solutions in the near future.”

We asked Routehappy which of the many systems competing for the Wi-Fi space race were qualified by the company as “basic, better and best”

Jason Rabinowitz, Data Research Manager at Routehappy, tells us, “We consider the exact categorisation of our Wi-Fi data as a proprietary aspect of our overall scoring algorithm. The underlying technology behind each connectivity system is one deciding factor, but it is always subject to other factors. Generally speaking, a “best” system is capable of streaming video, a “better” system is those that are capable of full web browsing and light media streaming, and a “basic” system provides basic connectivity, such as email and social media posts.”

Here are more highlights from Routehappy’s State of In-Flight Wi-Fi survey:

  • 60 airlines worldwide now offer in-flight Wi-Fi in most regions of the globe.
  • Many more non-U.S. airlines including Aer Lingus, Aeroflot, Etihad, Garuda, Iberia, Japan Airlines, Norwegian, SAS and Scoot now have substantial Wi-Fi offerings.
  • Several airlines are already upgrading aircraft to their third generation of in-flight Wi-Fi, progressing from “basic” to “better” and soon to “best”.

For those who want to geek-out on the stats, you can read more from our coverage yesterday here

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