Flight Plan

‘Onboard WiFi matters more today than ever before’

Neale Faulkner | Updated on February 21, 2021

Neale Faulkner

Check in: A passenger survey shows that the availability of WiFi will be critical when it comes to choosing an airline   -  ISTOCK.COM

Neale Faulkner, Vice President, Middle East, Africa and South Asia, Inmarsat Aviation, on rebuilding passenger confidence with the help of digital offerings

The global aviation industry’s outlook is set to improve in 2021 as more countries roll out mass Covid-19 vaccination programmes. However, a healthy and safe journey remains, understandably, the top concern among Asian travellers, especially Indian passengers.

Undoubtedly, 2020 brought the airline industry’s first decade of sustained profitability to a shuddering halt. According to a recent Passenger Confidence Tracker survey by Inmarsat Aviation, the largest study of its kind since the beginning of the pandemic, 58 per cent of respondents in India said they plan to travel less frequently, choosing to fly with an airline they trust.

The Passenger Confidence Tracker spoke to more than 9,500 passengers in 12 countries. Eight out of 10 passengers surveyed globally said their travel habits would change forever because of Covid-19. To address the challenge, the survey found the introduction of new technologies, particularly connected technologies, will be fundamental to boost passenger confidence. Fifty-five per cent of the respondents in India agree that onboard WiFi matters more today than ever before, while 64 per cent feel the availability of in-flight WiFi will be critical when it comes to choosing an airline, rather than airport location. These enhanced connectivity measures, which could include real-time luggage tracking and pre-clearing immigration on the plane, enabled by an efficient, connected cabin, are among the top new aspects of the journey passengers want to keep post-pandemic.

Therefore, digital solutions such as WiFi are fast-becoming essential to an enjoyable in-flight experience as well as critical enhancements to rebuilding flyers’ confidence. This enforced reset for airlines is likely to act as an accelerator for the digital transformation of the passenger experience. A high proportion of Indian travellers, as per the Passenger Confidence Tracker, said digital technology empowers them and is reassuring because it minimises physical contact by reducing touchpoints throughout the journey.

The lessons for airlines are clear. To rebound strongly they need to further cement their reputation and transform flying experiences.

To achieve this, they have to adopt a digital-first, passenger-centric approach. While there is no one-size-fits-all strategy for recovery — different business models will need to adopt various methods to meet this demand — airlines will need innovation and connectivity together to encourage passengers to fly again.

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Published on February 21, 2021
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