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Posted December 5, 2016

in-flight technology


Air travelers used to worry about getting stuck with a “middle” seat. Now, they worry about whether Wi-Fi will work during their flights. To be fair, securing the right seat and staying connected are both important to many business travelers (does anyone want to be stuck in a middle seat?), but there’s a key takeaway for air carriers: on-board access to technology is a big deal for business travelers.

Connectivity is Part of the Job

Business travelers are, in fact, on the road to perform their jobs and they’ve got a collection of mobile productivity tools (e.g. smartphones, tablets, apps) keeping them busy en route. They don’t necessarily want to stop working once their airplane takes flight; they at least want the option to keep working, even if they choose to pursue offline interests like napping or reading a magazine.

Consider these statistics: nearly nine-in-ten (86%) business travelers responding to a survey for the inaugural GBTA Business Traveler Sentiment Index™ say access to Wi-Fi is “vital to work productivity while traveling” and free access to Wi-Fi is one of the top items they believe all airlines should offer (26%), surpassed only by free checked bags (37%).

Explore more business traveler must-haves in 3 Hot Trends in Business Travel.

Air Carriers Rise to the Challenge

To meet the demand for connectivity, airlines are actively developing strategies to provide business travelers with a technology-fueled in-flight experience. And at the very least, that means making dependable Wi-Fi available. Delta, for one, is in the process of bringing 2Ku, Gogo’s in-flight Wi-Fi technology, to more than 600 aircraft in its mainline fleet.

The Airline Industry’s Connected Commerce Future, a trend report from Skift and Datalex, examines the digital challenges facing airlines today. Their findings, amassed from various industry sources, lend insight into what business travelers have come to expect on board and how their preferences represent opportunities for air carriers. For instance, half of business travelers will pay more for in-flight premium services:

  • WiFi streaming – 64%
  • In-seat charging – 50%
  • Texting – 31%
  • Early deplaning – 22%

Yes, many corporate travelers place a monetary value on these services. And note that three-out of the four services are technology-related, carrying more weight than being among the first in line to exit the plane. If airlines aren’t offering these services as standard “perks” for business travelers, they might very well build them into ancillary offerings. This is discussed at greater length in the trend report.

Not Working? No Problem. reports that passengers aboard Wi-Fi equipped Delta, United and American Airlines can now watch all entertainment on seat-back screens or personal devices, free-of-charge. Maybe that’s exceptionally great news to the 61% of business travelers who prefer to stay disconnected during a flight, according to a 2013 American Express Global Business Travel study. If they’re taking a break from their devices to unwind and relax, they have the option to catch up on movies. Either way, they’re benefiting from on-board technology.

Interested in other segments of the travel industry? Find out how Technology Shakes Up the MICE Industry and what Hotel Tech Spending Keeps Guests Connected


WEX Travel