Flyers are Willing to Part With Many Things to Get Fast, Reliable Wi-Fi

It appears we’re witnessing a sea change in the consumer preferences of air travelers. It has long been known that many flyers want to get the very cheapest airfare they can get their hands on and this cutthroat competition has resulted on many airlines scaling back the usual amenities. It seems like every time I get on a plane the complementary bag of pretzels or peanuts gets smaller and smaller, and the miniature bottles of liquor get more and more expensive. It seems though that many American passengers are willing to give up some of those amenities entirely in exchange for one thing, complementary in-flight high-speed wi-fi. The problem is that unlike more conventional amenities that can just be loaded onto a plane, turning an aluminum tube flying 30,000 feet above the Earth at 450 miles per hour into high-speed hotspot is incredibly difficult.

Difficult yes, but not impossible. It turns out that airliners are getting the message loud and clear too. Airlines all over the world are starting to bring this capability to all of their flights thanks to satellite broadband. For example JetBlue’s most recent overhaul has resulted in having 180 planes that can provide a connection speed of 12 megabits per second which leagues ahead of the average broadband connection speed in the United States which is 8.6 megabits per second. But perhaps the most interesting part of the survey is how much passengers would be willing to sacrifice to stay connected like that. While things like meals, drinks, legroom, and reclining seats were all on the chopping block, the most interesting response was that 13 percent of American passengers would give up the right to use the plane’s bathroom in exchange for a fast connection. Now those are people who really can’t unplug.

I can hold it, now let me stream Breaking Bad over the Pacific Ocean.

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